Microsoft Contest Looks To Entice Azure Developers

Windows Azure is expected to pit Microsoft against competitors like Google and Amazon.
Microsoft hasn't even released its Windows Azure cloud computing platform yet, but it's looking to lure developers with a little bit of hard cash.

On Monday, Microsoft announced the Azure Services Platform Developer Challenge, which will award developers who create the best Azure application with up to $5,000 and feature placement in a video on Microsoft's Channel 9 Web site and in content at Microsoft events.

Windows Azure is expected to be released later this fall, around the time of Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference, and will pit Microsoft against competitors like Google and Though Microsoft maintains a strong developer network, it has lost many developers to the Web in the past few years, and the company likely sees Azure as one way to bring some of them back.

Microsoft is looking for applications in two specific categories, as well as a catchall category. It's looking for the best .Net application running on Windows Azure, the best PHP application running on Windows Azure, and a "community winner" judged as the best overall application by the public.

In the last year or two, PHP has become much more heavily supported by Microsoft platforms. The company announced in March that it would open Windows Azure to PHP developers, but that news follows better support for PHP in Microsoft's Internet Information Services Web server, Expression Web development tool, Silverlight browser plug-in, and SQL Server.

According to the contest's site, Microsoft's looking for developers to create services that integrate with additional Azure services, Microsoft services, or third-party services, and winners will be judged partially on user experience, creativity, and their ability to "illustrate the value of the cloud."

Contestants can send in their submissions anytime between now and June 18. Grand-prize winners -- judged by blogger Om Malik and RedMonk analyst Michael Cote -- will be announced June 25 at the Structure cloud computing conference, and winners of the public vote will be announced June 30.

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