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App Store Showdown Comes to the Cloud

Every month, the core parts of cloud computing like storing and processing data get cheaper and more commoditized. That means that Microsoft and Google can’t rely on price cuts alone to take market share from Amazon Web Services, the longtime cloud leader that brought in $4.6 billion in revenue last year.

Instead, they’re both experimenting with another tactic to win over customers and generate revenue: marketplaces that are a sort of app stores for software designed to run in their clouds.

Microsoft launched its Azure Marketplace marketplace last fall, joining AWS, which has operated one since 2012. Google doesn’t offer a marketplace per se, instead running what it calls the Google Cloud Launcher, which made its debut in March and lets developers launch pre-packaged versions of mostly open source tools that cost nothing. The launcher has a similar look and feel to marketplaces hosted at Amazon and Microsoft and could be an early step toward creating one at Google.

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Weakness: With the exception of a few operating system providers like Red Hat, the firms whose products are featured on Google Cloud Launcher can’t bill customers through Google’s cloud service. Until they can, Cloud Launcher offers primarily market exposure for open-source products rather than a real sales channel.

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Similar to app stores on mobile platforms, these marketplaces are designed to make their affiliated cloud services stickier by making them easier to use—developers can tap into very complicated tools with just a few clicks—and driving more usage of the storage and computing sitting underneath those tools.