Is Microsoft Rebranding Windows Azure?

Has Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) decided to drop the “Azure” name from some component services in its billing portal? Some Microsoft customers believe yes, but Redmond is saying no.

What started the latest rumor? Apparently, Microsoft shortened the names of its services in the portal, so now “Windows Azure Compute” will be “Cloud Services,” and “SQL Azure” will be listed as “SQL Database,” for example.

That move set the blogosphere all a-twitter, with folks wondering whether Microsoft was dropping the Azure brand name.

Attempting to clarify its action, Microsoft tweeted on its official Windows Azure account: “Per our recent customer letter, we r simplifying service naming in billing statements. This doesn’t affect the #Windows #Azure name or brand.”

Moreover, a Microsoft spokesperson sent the following update to Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet.com, who originally reported on the change: “Today we informed customers that we simplified the naming of services in our billing statements. This does not affect the Windows Azure brand or name.”

Ah … but wait. The original statement to Foley said that the company “continues to invest in the Windows Azure brand,” that it is committed to an “open and flexible cloud platform” and had no further information — at that time. What is in the prior paragraph is what Microsoft finally clarified as its official message.

In all likelihood, the “clarification” was all Microsoft had in mind from the outset. It didn’t expect the level of buzz its letter to its customers would produce and thus, the proverbial left hand did not know what the right hand was doing until the right message got out. But if you’re Microsoft, shouldn’t you expect buzz?

What Redmond exactly has in mind with the change is not clear, but Foley shared the following "best guess":

“A couple of my contacts are saying the real reason Microsoft made these changes was actually to emphasize the Azure uber-brand. Not that you can tell that from the customer mail that went out or from the official statement, but that’s supposedly the grand plan, for what it’s worth.

The month of May has meant both spring as well as renaming to the folks in Redmond. On May 2 a company blog announced that “Windows Live” will be recast as “Windows 8.” Also, with the billing portal changes, Windows Azure changed its privacy policy.

Last month, Talkin' Cloud surveyed the prospects for Windows Azure and Office 365, and asked whether Microsoft could keep pace with growing support for open source cloud platforms. Click here to read the full blog.
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