Update: Still no word from any Microsoft officials on this, but hearing from others that the rebranding may be limited to the billing portal only and won't be applied externally. I've asked for and am still hoping to get an official response at some point.
Update No. 2: A Microsoft spokesperson responded with this statement: "Microsoft continues to invest in the Windows Azure brand and we are committed to delivering an open and flexible cloud platform that enables customers to take advantage of the cloud. We have no additional information to share at this time." A Microsoft spokesperson asked me to replace the original statement with a more direct one: "Today we informed customers that we simplified the naming of services in our billing statements. This does not affect the Windows Azure brand or name."
(A couple of my contacts are saying the real reason Microsoft made these changes was actually to emphasize the Azure uber-brand. Not that you can tell that from the customer mail that went out or from the official statement, but that's supposedly the grand plan, for what it's worth.)
Update No. 3: Now the @WindowsAzure twitter account is getting into the act. Here's the clearest update about the naming change yet: "Per our recent customer letter, we r simplifying service naming in billing statements. This doesn't affect the Windows Azure name or brand."
Now back to the original story.
"In the coming weeks, we will update the Windows Azure Service names that appear in the usage records you download. These are only name changes – your prices for Windows Azure are not impacted," according to the note accompanying the table above.
One Azure user said he believed Microsoft's goal with the change was to align its on-premises and cloud services better.
Microsoft's stance -- almost since 2008, when Windows Azure was still known by its codename "Red Dog" -- is that its on-premises Windows products all have cloud complements. This mirroring has been at the crux of Microsoft's private/public/hybrid cloud positioning, meaning its customers are free to mix and match its on-premises and cloud wares in ways that best suit their businesses.