The same day that Amazon announced the beta of its new CloudSearch technology, Microsoft announed its counterstrike: Moving the Bing Search application programming interface (API) to the Windows Azure Marketplace.
The Windows Azure Marketplace is the site where Microsoft and third party vendors can sell (or offer for free) their data, apps and services.
Microsoft officials said the Bing API Marketplace transition will "begin in several weeks and take a few months to complete." Via a post to the Bing Developer blog on April 12, officials did say that Microsoft plans to make the API available on a monthly subscription basis.
"Developers can expect subscription pricing to start at approximately $40 (USD) per month for up to 20,000 queries each month," according to the post. However, "(d)uring the transition period, developers will be encouraged to try the Bing Search API for free on the Windows Azure Marketplace, before we begin charging for the service."
In the interim, Microsoft is advising developers that they can continue to use the Bing Search API 2.0 for free. After the transition, it will no longer be free for public use and will be available from the Azure Marketplace only.
"We understand that many of you are using the API as an important element in your websites and applications, and we will continue to share details with you through the Bing Developer Blog as we approach the transition," the Softies added. Amazon CloudSearch, which went to beta today, is Amazon's new managed search service in the cloud designed to allow developers to add search to their applications. Amazon officials blogged today that customers can set it up and start processing queries in less than an hour for less than $100 per month. The service relies on a set of CloudSearch APIs that can be managed through the Amazon Web Services console.
Update: One Microsoft Azure partner who requested anonymity told me today that he thought Microsoft's real competitor to CloudSearch might be FAST search on Azure. Microsoft bought FAST Search and Transfer in 2008 and subsequently made it part of the SharePoint family
"Microsoft has FAST Search. That’s what people want on Azure. FAST was not built to run on Azure. FAST does not understand Azure storage. That will be fixed. Not sure when," the partner said.