Microsoft's cloud computing system is growing up

(AP) -- Microsoft Corp. leads its industry in part because a vast army of outside computer programmers design software that only runs on its Windows operating system. Now, the company is fighting to keep those programmers working with its tools as technology undergoes a massive shift.

On Tuesday, Microsoft told a gathering of that Windows Azure, its system for building software that runs over the Internet, will come out of test mode in January. In February, the software maker will begin charging for use of Azure.

Moving forward with its so-called "cloud computing" plans will help Microsoft compete with companies such as Inc. and Google Inc. Amazon has built a set of Web-based tools including data storage and raw computing power that is popular among startups. Google is challenging Microsoft with e-mail, word processing, spreadsheet and other software that runs in a Web browser instead of on a PC.

The new tools also put Microsoft firmly ahead of companies such as IBM Corp. and Oracle Corp., said Gartner Inc. technology analyst Ray Valdez.

Over the past several years, software over the Internet has gained momentum. People pay subscription fees or look at advertising in exchange for the right to access software through a Web browser instead of buying it to install on their computers.

The setup also makes it easier for software makers to build different versions of the same product for a PC and a mobile phone, for example, all accessing the same data. And when the number of users is exceptionally high, software makers can turn on extra computing power, then shut it off when demand dies down.

Web-based e-mail such as Microsoft's and Google's are common consumer tools that operate "in the cloud."

Now, larger companies are starting to make similar moves, letting Microsoft, and others take care of installing and running e-mail and other programs in data centers around the world instead of doing it themselves in-house. And increasingly, they will design their own using this kind of model.

Valdez said that in recent years, more big companies are building systems based on Microsoft's technology where they once might have used those from IBM Corp., ., Sun Microsystems Inc. and others. The analyst said Microsoft's new cloud computing tools can help the company cement those gains.

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Nov 17, 2009
Timing is everything.... I remember when Sun bragged that "the network IS the computer" and scorned the central site "computer center". But Sun failed to deliver on its promise. Microsoft may be too late to the party, or may be the unifying glue that creates a market for developers by standardizing the interfaces and offering the software components needed.

This is key: if your market strategy is to partner with the independent software developer, your quality is often preceived as being that of the worse of your partners. Conversely, if you play it close to the vest (e.g. Apple before the iphone) and score outside developers.... you have better control over your product's apparently quality, but you have fewer partners pushing you product and building THEIR future on top of yours.

I believe the long term winner is the one who infiltrates (insinuates?) technology most broadly. Not because the technology is the best, but because it allows more immagination and innovation.

Nov 17, 2009
In earlier message "scorn" not "score".

It is interesting, from a 40 year perspective on this industry, how companies can change key parts of their business model:

First) Sun made workstations and claimed "the network IS the computer"... scorned mainframes.

Second) Sun adopted their own microprocessor design and began to focus on where it could be useful.... not in workstations, but in larger servers.

Third) Now Oracle may save Sun from the trash heap of the computer industry .... precisely because the server hardware Sun developed has penetrated many large corporate computer centers.

Apple scorned 3rd party developers, probably burned by the sloppy mess of Apple II products. Now Apple is quite happy to let 3rd party developers build for their iPhone... for free... and reap the benefits.

Microsoft still trys to build a "community" of programmers and independent partners, much along the line of the "Novell Certified Engineer". We will see if MS goes the way of Novell.

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