LOS ANGELES — In unveiling its Web-based development platform today at PDC, Microsoft has fired a salvo at Amazon EC2, the company’s hosted development platform. Microsoft’s version of the cloud computing platform, dubbed Windows Azure, is essentially a hosted version of its server-side .NET platform. Developers can write ASP.NET code, complete with hookups to a hosted version of SQLServer, and run it on virtual machines hosted by Microsoft.
Windows Azure is meant to be another tier of computing, addressing Web development in the same respect that Vista and Windows Server address client-side and server-side development, said Ray Ozzie, the company’s chief software architect.
For now, Windows Azure is in very early beta. Its functionalities are fairly limited, and the company has not rolled it out to the public at large yet; for now, only developers at PDC will get activation codes. Ozzie warned that when the service reaches a commercial release — at a yet-unnamed time — it will likely be very different, and possibly incompatible, with the current version.
Developers looking for client-side news were out of luck today; the whole keynote focused on Azure, with plenty of demos to show what the cloud OS can do so far (though not a whole lot on how that’s different from what standard client-server apps already do). Tomorrow’s keynote will focus on client-side Windows development; check here for more updates.