Tag Archives: marketplace

Data in the cloud! DataMarket Add-In for Excel and Excel Services

There are some exciting things happening around Microsoft cloud services. One of the services is Windows Azure marketplace DataMarket, a cloud service that helps end users who need data for business analysis and decision making. You can conveniently consume the data you subscribe to directly in such Microsoft Office applications as Microsoft Excel 2010 and Microsoft business intelligence tools as PowerPivot and SQL Server Reporting Services. Then you can share the reports and visualization you create in SharePoint. To learn more, see the DataMarket_Whitepaper.

There are some end-to-end scenarios where Office draws data from the cloud through DataMaket, then shares it in SharePoint Server 2010 through Excel Services and perhaps from there to a PerformancePoint Services dashboard. The following diagram is a specific scenario where data is drawn from the DataMarket, then saved to your desktop, then shared on SharePoint Server 2010 through Excel Services.

Note: Office365 is included in the image only to give the big picture, in that there are three major offerings and DataMarket is a result of what is offered in Windows Azure and SQL Azure.

This post highlights the DataMarket Add-In for Excel, which is a free application that allows discovering and importing data from Windows Azure Marketplace DataMarket into Microsoft Office Excel. I also give a brief description of each cloud offering.

DataMarket Add-In for Excel (how it works)

The DataMarket Add-in for Excel (CTP1) gives you a simple experience allowing you to discover datasets published on the Windows Azure Marketplace DataMarket. You can browse and search for a rich set of datasets from content publishers within a tool you’re already familiar with, Excel. Here is how:

1. Download the add-in here, open the folder (or save to your machine), and double-click the Windows Installer Package.

Note: You may be asked to download Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0 Client Profile. The 4.0 framework installs the WCF Data Services, which is a component of the .NET Framework that enables you to create REST-based services and applications that use the Open Data Protocol (OData) to expose and consume data over the Web.

2. Open Excel and click the Data tab to see that the add-in was installed as extension to Excel. You should see a button named Import data from DataMarket in the Excel ribbon, as follows:

3. Click the Import data from DataMarket button. The sign-in dialog box opens:

This dialog box introduces the DataMarket and lets you:

  • Browse the marketplace: Clicking this link opens a new browser window where you can browse the datasets exposed by the DataMarket.
  • Sign up for DataMarket: Opens the browser with the sign-up page for the DataMarket. Signing up is free!
  • Privacy statement: Opens the browser showing the privacy statement for this add-in.

The main purpose of this dialog box is to help you sign in to your list of subscribed datasets. To sign in, you need to provide an account key. An account key is your password to access all the datasets in the DataMarket and it can be found at https://datamarket.azure.com/account/keys. Because the account key is your password (tied to your DataMarket account), you need to sign up with the DataMarket to get access to it.

Copy the account key from the account key page (https://datamarket.azure.com/account/keys) and paste it into the Account key field. Additionally, you can specify whether the account key is being saved for further use by checking the Remember my account key check box.

If you have signed up, copy your account key and click Sign-In to load your subscribed datasets.

The following screeshot shows the three datasets I signed up for. Some datasets, such as STATS, charge a fee. Other datasets are free but may have limitations on the data you can view. For example, Zillow gives you 3,000 transaction per month for free. The other data providers offer a various number of transactions.

 

For next steps see:

Excel Services overview (SharePoint Server 2010)

Publish a workbook to Excel Services

 


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Pet Peeves with the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace

Have you ever noticed how something things just gnaw at your very being. This is the case with the WP7 marketplace, the Zune software, and the things that drive me batshit crazy with a side of fries. To go. I wanted to share.


palinshrug


XBox Live is Not the Centre of the Universe


Okay, it’s fine that the Zune software has an XBox live tag for games so can see them clearly but do we really need to have it shoved down our throats. On every click?


Click on Games in the marketplace:


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The first thing that it defaults to on the filters on the right is XBox Live:


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Okay. Fine. However if you change it (say to Paid) then click onto a title when you come back from that title is the filter still set to Paid? No. It’s back to XBox Live again.


Really? Give us a break. If you change to any filter on any other genre then click on the selected title, it doesn’t revert back to anything. It stays on the selection you picked. Let’s be fair here. The Games genre should behave just like every other one. If I pick Paid then when I come back to the list please remember that.


Double Dipping


On the subject of XBox Live titles, Microsoft (and developers who have an agreement with Microsoft to produce Live titles, which generally rules out indie game developers) is double dipping with regards to exposure of their titles.


Here’s the Puzzle and Trivia Game section on the Marketplace for XBox Live titles:


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And here’s the same category filtered on Paid titles:


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See the problem? Two indie titles while the rest are XBox Live ones. So while XBL has it’s filter, they also get to showcase their wares in the Paid and Free filters as well.


If you’re going to have an XBox Live filter then use it and stop pushing down indie titles until they’re off the screen (on some genres this is already the case). Free and Paid titles should be just that and not include XBox Live ones. If you’re really stoked that people can’t find the Free XBox Live titles vs. the paid ones, then create a Free XBox Live filter and a Paid XBox Live filter. I don’t think we would mind much.


Whose Trial is it Anyways?


You might notice apps in the marketplace with titles like “My Fart App Professional Lite” or “Silicon Lamb Spleen Builder Free”. When you submit and app to the marketplace it can either be free or paid. If it’s a paid app you also have the option to submit it with Trial capabilities. It’s up to you to decide what you offer in the trial version but trial versions can be purchased from within the app so after someone trys out your app (for free) and wants to unlock the Super Secret Obama Spy Ring Level, they can just go to the marketplace from your app (if you built that functionality in) and upgrade to the paid version.


However it creates a rift of sorts when it comes to visibility. Some developers go the route of the paid app with a trial version, others decide to submit *two* apps instead of one. One app is the “Free” or “Lite” verions and the other is the paid version. Why go to the hassle of submitting two apps when you can just create a trial version in the same app? Again, visibility.


There’s no way to tell Paid apps with Trial versions and ones without (it’s an option, you don’t have to provide trial versions, although I think it’s a good idea). However there is a way to see the Free apps from the Paid ones so some submit the two apps and have the Free version have links to buy the paid one (again through the Marketplace tasks in the API).


What we as developers need for visibility is a new filter. Trial. That’s it. It would simply filter on Paid apps that have trial capabilities and surface up those apps just like the free ones. If Microsoft added this filter to the marketplace, it would eliminate the need for people to submit their “Free” and “Lite” versions and make it easier for the developer not to have to maintain two systems. I mean, is it really that hard? Can’t be any more difficult than the XBox Live Filter that’s already there.


Location is Everything


The last thing on my bucket list is about location. When I launch Zune I’m running in my native location setting, Canada. What’s great is that I navigate to the Travel Tools section where I have one of my apps and behold the splendour that I see:


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There are my apps in the number 1 and number 4 slot for top selling in that category. I show it to my wife to make up for the sleepless nights writing this stuff and we dance around and celebrate.


Then I change my location on my operation system to United States and re-launch Zune. WTF?


image


My flight app has slipped to the 10th spot (I’m only showing 4 across here out of the 7 in Zune) and my border check app that was #1 is now in the 32nd spot! End of celebration.


Not only is relevance being looked at here, I value the comments people make on may apps as do most developers. I want to respond to them and show them that I’m listening. The next version of my border app will provide multiple camera angles. However when I’m running in my native Canada location, I only see two reviews. Changing over to United States I see fourteen! While there are tools out there to provide with you a unified view, I shouldn’t have to rely on them. My own Zune desktop software should allow me to see everything.


I realize that some developers will submit an app and only target it for some locations and that’s their choice. However I shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to see what apps are ahead of mine, or see people comments and ratings.


Another proposal. Either unify the marketplace (i.e. when I’m looking at it show me everything combined) or let me choose a filter. I think the first option might be difficult as you’re trying to average out top selling apps across all markets and have to deal with some apps that have been omitted from some markets. Although I think you could come up with a set of use cases that would handle that, maybe that’s too much work. At the very least, let us developers view the markets in a drop down or something from within the Zune desktop. Having to shut down Zune, change our location, and re-launch Zune to see other perspectives is just too onerous.


A Call to Action


These are just one mans opinion. Do you agree? Disagree? Feel hungry for a bacon sandwich? Let everyone know via the comments below. Perhaps someone from Microsoft will be reading and take some of these ideas under advisement. Maybe not, but at least let’s get the word out that we really want to see some change. Egypt can do it, why not WP7 developers!



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