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Is Azure a dirty word because it means cloud?

Microsoft drops Azure name from its cloud services portal, but will that be all?

Microsoft has sent its Windows Azure customers an email that says the word Azure will be dropped from the usage portal for the cloud services they buy.

So, for example, Windows Azure Storage will appear simply as Storage on the bills, according to a ZDNet story about the change.

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Some reports are equating the change to dropping the Azure name entirely, which is not what the email says: “Dear Customer, In the coming weeks, we will update the Windows Azure Service names that appear in the usage records you download. These are only name changes – your prices for Windows Azure are not impacted. The table below summarizes the changes…”

Sure, it could be that Microsoft is gearing up to get rid of the Azure name altogether, but that would seem odd, given that it’s just three years old and people are getting to know what it is – Microsoft’s cloud service.

But if the plan is to dump the name from it could also signal a shift to pushing the idea of cloud out of customers’ minds, which could serve two purposes.

First, pushing down awareness that customer data is in the cloud could quell fretting about security, privacy and reliability that still surround cloud.

Second, it could make customers more willing to embrace mobile devices such as phones and tablets that can’t support natively some of the services Azure offers such as storage, caching, content delivery, SQL database and virtual networking. If the services are available on these devices without blaring that they are really based in the cloud, customers may be more willing to use them.

Such acceptance could go a long way, for instance, toward the expanding functionality of Windows RT devices, the version of Windows 8, that natively supports only Metro-style applications tailored for touch, but not traditional Windows applications that run on Windows 7 and earlier platforms. If owners of the devices bought into Azure services, the devices could do more. Some of these devices are likely to be inexpensive, and if they could support more business applications,might be popular as corporate tools.

So far, though, all we know is that Microsoft has dropped the Azure name in the usage portal, that may signal something no more ambitious than a desire to use more conversational names; there has been no change in Microsoft’s public use of the Azure name.

(Tim Greene covers Microsoft for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at tgreene@nww.com and follow him on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/Tim_Greene)

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