Microsoft has moments when you really must give it credit and others where you just shake your head in disbelief. This is both...
The skinny: the Redmond giant has used the weekend to launch its first iPhone app, called 'Seadragon Mobile', and made it completely free. What Seadragon Mobile does is give users access to huge photo libraries over the air using either 3G or WiFi. Available photos include those already at its own PhotoSynth site plus user uploaded content.
Navigation employs full multi-touch technology with flicking and pinching to control zoom levels and users can also subscribe to RSS feeds to keep abreast of the newest content. Speaking to TechFlash Microsoft Live Labs group product manager Alex Daley explained the move saying: "The iPhone is the most widely distributed phone with a (graphics processing unit). Most phones out today don't have accelerated graphics in them. The iPhone does and so it enabled us to do something that has been previously difficult to do. I couldn't just pick up a BlackBerry or a Nokia off the shelf and build Seadragon for it without GPU support."
So credit goes for Microsoft for being so open and choosing to develop for platforms it respects whether or not it comes from a rival. On the other hand: why oh why oh why?
For one, while it is a nice app - if not the most exciting in the world - you'd think Microsoft could better utilise the time and money of its development teams by getting Windows Mobile and applications for that up to speed. Secondly, Seadragon Mobile is completely free which is a great deal for iPhone owners but why can't it show the same love and devotion to its own customers?!
Remember this is a company which seemingly won't offer core functionality upgrades such as Pocket Internet Explorer 6 and Windows Mobile 6.5 to its users without forcing them to upgrade their handsets. In essence then we see Microsoft doing something nice to promote and encourage the sales of its rivals while treating its own long suffering customers like rubbish... go figure?!
Seadragon Mobile is available now via App Store.