The Windows Azure cloud platform will be rebranded as Microsoft Azure, according to news reports. The change is intended to emphasize that the cloud service -- and, by implication, Microsoft -- is not exclusively focused on Windows.
The name change, reported by ZDNet and confirmed by other publications, is expected to occur sometime Tuesday and be implemented by early April.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with industry research firm Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, told us that this rebranding "is about two things."
'Not Just About Windows'
First, she said, "the Windows brand and operating system have been under fire" for its tile-based interface and failure to penetrate very far into the mobile space. The company "didn't want to tie the cloud platform to Windows," she said.
DiDio said the other reason is to emphasize "how big the Azure ecosystem is now," encompassing databases, Linux virtual machines, a wide range of development tools and other software.
"What they are trying to tell people," she said, "is that it isn't just about Windows anymore. You don't hear Google calling its cloud platform Android."
At one time, the technology giant wanted to present Windows Azure as related to Windows Server.
DiDio noted that Microsoft "made its name for the integration of its OS, server and applications," and now it wants to emphasize its cross-platform compatibility. Online versions of its Office software, an expected launch soon of Office for Apple's iPad, the availability of Android phones by its Nokia acquisition -- these are all part of the new Microsoft.
$100 to Upgrade
Last month, new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made clear this more expansive vision for the company in his first public comments as company head. He said that "what's going to define Microsoft going forward is innovation in a mobile-first, cloud-first world." He emphasized helping customers get Microsoft services on any available device.
Just as Microsoft is trying to turn the page on the perception of Azure, so it continues to attempt to do so for Windows XP.
It has been trying everything possible to migrate the large population of XP users to a more modern version of Windows, and now it's willing to put its money where its intentions are.
The company will pay $100 toward the cost of a new Windows PC for XP users who demonstrate they are using the vintage OS and who buy a PC priced at $599 or greater. Ninety days of premium support, and free data transfer from the XP machine, will be thrown in. Both business and consumer customers can participate in the offer, although the prospect of businesses bringing in zillions of XP machines as proof may temper their enthusiasm.
Windows XP machines, which are about to lose all Microsoft support April 8, include an estimated 10 percent of all U.S. federal government computers. According to Microsoft, those machines and all other XPs will become "five times more vulnerable to security risks and viruses" when the company ends its support.