Yesterday, relatively quietly, Microsoft Live Labs released its first iPhone application. Seadragon Mobile is now available in the app store for free and it represents a pretty big step for the gang in Redmond. As popular as the iPhone is, it was bound to happen sooner or later but Microsoft’s entry into the iPhone app game is interesting on several levels, as is its explanation of the move. But first things first – what’s the app? Seadragon Mobile is essentially a demo of Seadragon photo technology on Apple’s mobile platform. Implemented in Microsoft’s Photosynth software, Seadragon allows for smooth zooming and panning on a photo by storing it at several different resolutions and displaying only the pieces needed at a given time. Sneaky. When discussing the reasoning behind choosing the iPhone as the platform for Seadragon Mobile, Microsoft basically pointed to the iPhone’s superior hardware when compared to “most phones out today”. Alex Daley, group product manager for Microsoft Live Labs, had this to say:
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.
Hmm. Seadragon Mobile comes with around 50 sample images that users can play with and Photosynth users will also be able to browse their synths, in 2D at least. It will definitely be interesting to see where Microsoft takes this, and also when some Windows Mobile-powered hardware might be deemed capable enough to get some Seadragon love.