Twilio Rising: Microsoft Inks Deal To Offer Voice, Messaging APIs To ‘Tens Of Thousands’ Of Azure Developers

A potentially big move forward for cloud-based telephony API startup Twilio — and an intriguing development for Microsoft, given its would-be ownership of Skype: Twilio and Microsoft have formed a strategic alliance to offer Twilio’s APIs to developers on the Windows Azure platform.

The offering will cover both Twilio’s voice and messaging services, and Twilio is sweetening the deal by giving developers a credit of 1,000 free text messages or inbound voice minutes when they sign up.

Windows Azure — Microsoft’s cloud platform for building and deploying web, mobile, enterprise and other apps — is playing an increasing role in the company’s bigger strategy to target developers — and make sure that they don’t all keep opting for a competing service from Amazon, EC2.

Microsoft has a hurdle ahead of it: as pointed out by Wired last week, Azure is “the world’s most misunderstood cloud.” (Poor Microsoft!)

The Twilio features are useful in that they, too, are cloud-based and do not require consumers/end users to have any applications or clients downloaded to use them. (That’s one way Twilio is differentiated from Skype.) Features available via Twilio include interactive voice response, mobile app distribution via SMS, call automation or two-factor authentication.

As more applications and the servicing of them move to the cloud, I think we’re going to see a much bigger emphasis on solutions that deliver functionality without too many strings attached. Microsoft seems to think so, too: “We’ve seen the innovation happening around Twilio, and we want to make it as easy as possible for Windows Azure developers to build great apps that use Twilio’s communications platform and take advantage of Windows Azure’s scalability, reliability and flexibility,” Scott Guthrie, corporate VP, Microsoft, said in a statement.

The move is the next chapter in the expansion of Twilio’s business. Last week the company announced that it hired a new, full-time, European marketing director — James Parton, who got poached from Telefonica — in order to build out its relationships and business on that side of the pond.

Twilio’s VoIP API is already used by companies like eBay, Airbnb and Hulu, as well as many smaller developers, to add voice and text services into their consumer apps. Twilio has to date raised $33.7 million in funding from an A-list of backers including Besssemer Venture Partners, Union Square Ventures and Dave McClure.

[Image: Sean MacEntee, Flickr]