Microsoft Azure is available, but does anyone care?

Microsoft may find that it has but one shot to make it in the cloud

I'm not sure if anybody noticed, but the long-awaited Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform went into billable production last week after a pretty short beta period by Microsoft standards. (I plan on digging a bit deeper into Azure this year.) However, I was taken slightly aback by the lack of fanfare.

As you may remember, one of my predictions for 2010 was Microsoft finally being relevant in the cloud, and I'm still sticking to that. However, with Azure's late entry into the platform and infrastructure services marketplace, will Microsoft be able to catch up with other infrastructure and platform cloud offerings? Or will its success in the cloud be limited to the forthcoming cloud version of its popular Office platform?

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Microsoft Office 2010 is a cloud/on-premise hybrid whose latest iteration, according to Microsoft, will include a suite of online tools accessed through Windows Live. However, the cloud version of Office will have the same functionality and same look and feel as Microsoft Office 2007.

That said, I suspect that many existing Office users (perhaps myself included) will find a familiar friend in the cloud version of Office, as compared to Google Docs, which is still a bit clunky.

Traditionally, Microsoft has been great at providing software that works and looks great, but there have been some recent issues, including the lackluster acceptance of Vista and Office 2007, which left many asking, "Why did I bother to upgrade?"

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