Mary Jo Foley is reporting that Microsoft will make a grand announcement during the company's Build conference that Windows Azure will be renamed to Microsoft Azure.
The announcement will apparently come on day 2 of Build (March 25, 2014), and the news really doesn't come as a shock to those that have been carefully picking through news over the past few weeks.
Obviously, Windows Azure provides more than just "Windows." Microsoft has spent the past couple years adding new features and services to its Cloud OS, now providing access to things like Oracle, Linux, and non-Windows development environments for languages such as PHP and Ruby. But even more recently, we've heard coverage that Microsoft is steadily building apps and services for non-Windows operating systems first. In the past couple weeks, Microsoft has provided OneNote across all mobile platforms, and there's a rumor that the company will announce Microsoft Office for the iPad this week during a press conference in San Francisco. Windows 8 users have been waiting for a touchscreen–enabled version of the productivity suite, but it appears that iOS will get it first. This is quite a foray from the Microsoft of the past.
However, it makes sense.
Satya Nadella's now famous first letter to employees outlined a Mobile First/Cloud First world. For Microsoft to be successful, it must do what other vendors have done, and that is to target the most popular platforms first. While Windows still enjoys a dominant market on the desktop, Microsoft's mobile offerings (and even Windows 8) are having a hard time gaining traction and acceptance.
Rebranding can sometimes take months, but with Microsoft poised to make the announcement, the company may have already been working on it. Rebranding for SkyDrive (now OneDrive) was an overnight change with the flip of a switch. Still, for the OneDrive transfiguration to be 100% complete, Windows 8.1 Update 1 has just to retitle SkyDrive to OneDrive on the majority of PCs and tablets running the earlier versions of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.
The rebranding also allows Microsoft to eliminate confusion for potential customers. The word "Windows" attached to any Microsoft-branded service gives an assumption that it only works with Microsoft's desktop operating system, or that it only serves those running a version of Windows. For Microsoft to compete with the likes of Amazon, the company has to distance itself from a branding that promotes a closed platform environment.
Now, if only Microsoft could standardize on how to pronounce "Azure." Sitting in con-calls with Microsoft over various things the past couple months, I've determined that no two Microsoft employees pronounce it exactly the same way. Some give it a long 'a' sound at the beginning, some give it a French flair accenting the latter syllable.