This morning, Steve Ballmer promised Windows Cloud, a set of Web-based applications that would enable "light editing" of MS Office docs and who knows what else — he didn't say. It's probably no coincidence that Amazon announced its own sort of Windows Cloud today: Customers will be able to run Windows Server and SQL Server via Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Amazon CTO Werner Vogels blogged an explanation:

There are many different reasons why customers have requested Windows Server; for example many customers want to run ASP.NET websites using Internet Information Server and use Microsoft SQL Server as their database. Amazon EC2 running Windows Server enables this scenario for building scalable websites. In addition, several customers would like to maintain a global single Windows-based desktop environment using Microsoft Remote Desktop, and Amazon EC2 is a scalable and dependable platform on which to do so.

What this means in English: Companies will soon have a choice of at least two ways to run Windows-powered servers without setting up and maintaining their own server farms. Analyst Mary Jo Foley explains what this means for Microsoft:

Microsoft will be fielding its hosted development environment in an increasingly crowded space. Google, and Oracle are all bidding for pieces of developers’ hosted attentions. But for now, Amazon is the big dog.

I honestly can't tell: Is a hosted SQL Server better or worse than MySQL? Where's Ted Dziuba when I need him? "Didn't you hear?" Ted replied to my plea for technical analysis. "Chrome is the new OS."