Mr. Softy's Head Is in the Clouds

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Cloud computing doesn't matter? Go tell Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) that. CEO Steve Ballmer yesterday told a London audience that his company would next month release "Windows Cloud," a platform for developers writing Web-based software.

This new whatchmacallit -- Ballmer wouldn't say whether "Windows Cloud" will be an operating system or a suite of tools -- won't replace Vista, nor is it tied to the forthcoming Windows 7 OS.  Nonetheless, it's a bold stroke.

For all of its detractors, cloud computing has entranced more than a few coders, including Foolish colleague Anders Bylund, a regular user of Web services from (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) , EMC (NYSE: EMC  ) , and others. (NYSE: CRM  ) , meanwhile, says it has 80,000 developers committed to its toolset.

That's important, because developers are the butter for Microsoft's bread. If Ballmer has a cloud environment in play, it's because he doesn't want to see coders choosing other platforms. Think of "Windows Cloud" as an essential part of Microsoft's "software plus services" strategy, which, from what I can tell, is a mishmash of desktop software and cloud-computing services. Oracle's (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) Larry Ellison would likely approve. So might SAP's (NYSE: SAP  ) Henning Kagermann.

Practically, we probably shouldn't expect S+S to produce anything more than a functionally limited version of Microsoft Word, even after "Windows Cloud" descends on the market. "We want software more powerful than software that runs in a browser," Ballmer said. Especially if those browsers have names that rhyme with "tire locks" and "frugal dome," right, Steve?

Beware, disruptors. Mr. Softy is coming for you.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers owned shares of Oracle at the time of publication. He also hunts for the best of tech as a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers team. Here's how to try this market-beating service free for 30 days. Read more of Tim's Foolish writings. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is service-oriented.

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