So its here. Microsoft's foray into the world of cloud computing - the buzzword everyone is using to refer to the "next big thing". Launching Azure today, Microsoft is taking on Amazon and Google who have their own cloud offerings. Actually, Microsoft has had its cloud offering in the form of Windows Live for sometime now (but only after Google put the pressure on them and then Amazon).
To me, this represents the next wave of programming and runtime platforms -- not just from a Microsoft perspective. The advances in virtualisation, storage technologies and operating system technologies is making software-as-a-service more realistic. Azure appears to follow the long line of Microsoft programming platforms MS-DOS, COM and .NET; Azure will attract a new wave of programmers and extend the shelf-life of existing MS-programmers. This opens for a whole new wave of services and therefore service providers -- and then business opportunities. Judging from Microsoft's past record in programming platforms, the developers are going to be the target for all attention and objects for Microsoft's marketing dollars.
The non-Microsoft world of developers will have to rely on Open Source solutions and Google APIs, that may slow them down somewhat. In a way, Microsoft has reduced Java to a programming language - even though Java represented a platform (remember the Java vs. .NET wars?) and with the rise of popularity of alternative langauges like PHP and Ruby, it is a matter of time before Java turns "legacy" (almost like COBOL).
In a different annoucement earlier last week, Aetna and Microsoft announced the use of Microsoft's HealthVault services. A demonstration that Microsoft is also addressing the "vertical" space for services. This opens for some interesting business opportunities in the healthcare sector. Watch my blog on digital health and wellbeing for commentary.