Art Whittman asks Is The Cloud The End Of Microsoft? in his InformationWeek column of 10/30/2008 and then provides a partial answer:
Microsoft's failure to explain any aspect of its cloud business model renders the rest of its good words about as intelligible as Charlie Brown's teacher. Its competition can tell you exactly how you'll pay for services, and for a developer looking to field their own SaaS product, that makes all the difference. More than anything, Microsoft is describing what's come to be known as platform as a service. The platform is for developers, and developers have to understand how (or whether) they'll make money.
Update 11/1/2008: Rocky Lhotka says in his Thoughts on PDC 2008 post of 10/31/2008:
The real question is whether [porting my Web site to Azure] would even make sense, and that comes down to the value proposition. One big component of value is price. Like anyone else, I pay a certain amount to run my web site. Electricity, bandwidth, support time, hardware costs, software costs, etc. I've never really sorted out an exact cost, but it isn't real high on a per-month basis. And I could host on any number of .NET-friendly hosting services that have been around for years, and some of them are pretty inexpensive. So the question becomes whether Azure will be priced in such a way that it is attractive to me. If so, I'm excited about Azure!! If not, then I really don't care about Azure.
I suspect most attendees went through a similar thought process. If Microsoft prices Azure for "the enterprise" then 90% of the developers in the world simply don't care about Azure. But if Microsoft prices Azure for small to mid-size businesses, and for the very small players (like me) then 90% of the developers in the world should (I think) really be looking at this technology
Ray Ozzie said in his PDC keynote of 10/27/2008:
When it is released commercially, Windows Azure will have a very straightforward business model, with costs primarily being derived as a function of two key factors[: An app’s] resource consumption and a specific service level that we agree to provide.
The pricing and models for all the Azure services will be competitive with the marketplace, and we'll provide a variety of offers and service levels where there may be differentiated requirements across the breadth of developers and markets that we serve as a company from the individual developer to the enterprise.
I don’t believe that platitudes promising “competitive” pricing and models will be sufficient when the primary competitor, Amazon Web Services (AWS), has a published service level agreement (SLA) and resources price list that potential users can use to analyze their business plans for cloud deployment.
Furthermore, the SDS (then SSDS) team have claimed that they don’t compete against AWS. [See Soumitra Sengupta’s It is simple, but it is not SimpleDB post of March 7, 2008 and Nigel Ellis’s observation quoted from Tim Anderson’s Microsoft reveals its database for the cloud article in the Register for 3/10/2008:
This is not a SimpleDB compete. Our goal is to take our existing entrprise server products and capabilities and give that a service delivery mechanism. This is only a start... four months from now, it's going to look very different.
It’s no wonder that, as noted on PDC 2008’s main Web page on 10/29/2008, the ES18 Business Considerations for Cloud Computing at 4:45PM in Petree Hall has been CANCELLED.