The newly-rechristened Microsoft Azure (MSFT +1%) is seeing a fresh round of major price cuts: They include 27%-35% drops for Azure's cloud computing services, 44%-65% drops for its cloud storage services, and 27%-35% drops for memory-intensive Windows and Linux computing instances.
The cuts come a week after Google announced huge across-the-board cuts for its Compute Engine cloud infrastructure (IaaS) platform and App Engine cloud app platform (PaaS), and Amazon quickly returned fire.
Google's move was accompanied by the launch of a service that aims to mesh the software flexibility of Compute Engine with the management ease of App Engine, and by a new pricing scheme that delivers automatic price cuts for buyers of reserved capacity.
Microsoft, for its part, is adding new redundancy and regional service options for Azure (could appeal to clients with global footprints). Like Google and all other rivals, Microsoft's IaaS share is well below Amazon's, but it's one of the PaaS market's four leaders.
Separately, Mary Jo Foley reports a pending update to Windows 8.1 adds a taskbar and "other visual cues" meant to appease keyboard/mouse users unhappy with its UI changes. Microsoft has already added a boot-to-desktop option and brought back the Start button. Those wanting the Start menu back will likely have to wait for Windows 9 (expected in 2015).
Microsoft's BUILD developer conference starts tomorrow.