(NASDAQ:AMZN) is at it again, improving its bustling little bundle of cloud-computing services. Don't these guys know that December is supposed to be all about retail?

Yep, in the midst of the holiday shopping season, the e-retailer has extended the reach of its Elastic Computing Cloud overseas. The service has been running on a few American computing clusters so far, and now developers can choose to deploy their cloudy applications in Europe as well. Developers have been clamoring for this option, because Europe is a large and highly connected market. Local servers will always deliver snappier service.

The European servers start out supporting only Unix/Linux environments, with support for Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows lagging a bit behind. You pay about 10% more for the convenience of using machines a continent away from Amazon's home turf, but it's still pay-as-you-go. Run a server instance for an hour, pay for an hour of computing time.

Let me just remind everyone once again how incredibly relevant the EC2 and its sister services are to long-term investors. Cloud computing is still in its infancy, and behemoths like IBM (NYSE:IBM) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) are only starting to figure out how to share their massive computing infrastructures with small businesses and regular people everywhere.

Think Web 2.0 squared. Software-as-a-service on steroids. Outsourcing the hardware while keeping full control over software. Any day now, copycat competitors to Amazon's groundbreaking services should start popping up like the broadleaf weeds in my lawn, powered by virtualization packages from Microsoft, VMware (NYSE:VMW), or Citrix Systems (NASDAQ:CTXS). If I were a server hosting specialist like Rackspace Hosting (NYSE:RAX), I'd start working harder on my own virtual hosting products.

If Amazon doesn't make serious money from the EC2 platform in a year or two, I'll eat my jingly cap -- hold the salt.

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