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Google, Apple Play Catch-Up to Microsoft (for a change)

I'm no Microsoft fanboi, but I noticed an interesting tidbit when I recently wrote a news article about Google Cloud SQL, which adds a MySQL database service to the company's App Engine development stack.

In the comments section of the blog post announcing the new service, was this from reader Jeff King:

"Microsoft has had SQL Azure for ages so why would you need this?"

Now that's a switch. Usually it's the other way around: The slow, ponderous, bureaucratic, out-of-touch Redmond software giant is chastised for being behind the times and playing clumsy catch-up to the hip, nimble Web 2.0 pioneer.

Indeed, SQL Azure was introduced in March 2009. Truth be told, after Amazon basically pioneered the cloud phenomenon in 2006, Google beat Microsoft to the punch in the fight for the sky when it introduced App Engine in April 2008, about six months before Windows Azure was unveiled.

But, looking at the database component, it's clear that Microsoft has had a leg up on Google, which heretofore offered a datastore with a syntax similar to SQL called GQL. OK, how many of you developers have liked, or even used, GQL? Raise your hands (or flame me; your choice).

"One of App Engine's most requested features has been a simple way to develop traditional database-driven applications," said the Google Cloud SQL program manager in the previously mentioned blog post. Well, yaaah!

And today I noticed a news report that Apple is preparing to launch its iCloud. I know the products don't really compare--with Apple's focus on music and consumer entertainment as opposed to enterprise development--but launching an iCloud service in late 2011 seems a little iBehind.

And stodgy old Microsoft seems to have acquitted itself well in the cloud despite its late start, judging from this recent Ars Technica headline: "Windows Azure beats Amazon EC2, Google App Engine in cloud speed test."

I've even noticed some positive buzz about Windows Phone in the media as of late. Is Microsoft finally turning things around, like a huge supertanker that takes miles to change direction? Will it (gasp!) become cool? Well, let's not go overboard here.

What do you think about Microsoft: dying dinosaur or comeback kid? Comment here or drop me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 10/13/2011 at 1:15 PM


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