By Joseph Hofstader, Microsoft Cloud Computing Architect/Evangelist


I am excited to talk with you about the T-Mobile Family Room application for Windows Phone 7, powered by Windows Azure.  The T-Mobile Family Room is an application that allows family members to communicate and collaborate through a secure social network using an intuitive user interface on their Windows Phone 7.  This application is currently pre-installed on all Windows Phones distributed by T-Mobile.

Earlier this year, Deloitte published their Telecommunications Predictions for 2010.  Among other forecasts, Deloitte predicted that a convergence of mobile voice and social networking would occur this calendar year.  It is unquestionable that the blending of social networking and mobile communications has already dramatically changed the way people communicate:  online services like Facebook, Twitter, and Windows Live have existed for years  allowing individuals to publish messages to their contacts from anywhere they have an Internet connection.

With all of the aforementioned social networking platforms accessible from mobile devices at this time, you may be questioning the value of the T-Mobile Family Room.  The value of the T-Mobile family room takes the best of social networking on mobile devices and packages it in a family-friendly environment.  The T-Mobile Family Room application is designed so that only the members of a family can post messages to another and share a calendar, keeping outsiders from accessing information a family may want to keep confidential.

In order to get the Family Room application to market quickly, T-Mobile decided to leverage the Windows Azure platform, Microsoft’s cloud platform for application hosting.  More than just an application hosting environment, Windows Azure is an open platform that offers a number of services and a robust Visual Studio Software Development Kit (SDK) that makes it easy to quickly develop secure, scalable applications.
Taking advantage of Windows Azure’s platform capabilities, the developers of T-Mobile Family Room were able to focus on delivering functionality to the application users without the time-consuming efforts of capacity planning, procurement and infrastructure configuration.  Since Windows Azure supports an elastic, utility computing model, the Family Room application was deployed with a minimal expense to T-Mobile, giving them the ability to increase computing, storage, and database resources when necessary.  For application security, the Family Room application leverages the security services from the Windows Azure platform to ensure that only authenticated and authorized users are able to access the content.

As somebody who has been intimately involved with the convergence of the world of the web and communications for a number of years, I find the T-Mobile Family Room application to be a family-friendly alternative for mobile social networking.  It is a great solution for connected families who want to leverage the Internet for all of the entertainment and educational content it provides but who prefer to keep family communications secure and private.