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Azure will be free the first month and go paid in February 2010

In October of 2008, Microsoft first unveiled its new Azure cloud-based application. The application was offered to developers for free to allow them to test out the service and get ready for the full introduction of the platform. Microsoft also held a contest earlier this year with $5,000 in prizes for several categories to get developers to build applications for Azure.

Microsoft had always said that Azure would be free for a limited time. Reuters reports that Microsoft has now announced that Azure will officially launch in full form on January 1, 2010. For the first month, the service will be free. Starting in February 2010 the service will move to a paid platform.

At its core Azure is a software platform for developers to use to write programs that allow customers to store data and more. Google and Amazon are already offering online services that use cloud architecture. Google has its free online word processing and productivity applications and Amazon has the aforementioned cloud-based storage it sells.

Exactly how much the service will cost on a monthly basis is unknown. Microsoft's Ray Ozzie announced the official launch date for the service at the annual Microsoft software developers conference Tuesday.





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