Today, Microsoft kicks off its Professional Developers Conference (PDC) for 2010 and we are showcasing a really wide variety of Microsoft developer technologies and tools that cover a vast range of capabilities. This year, the focus is on the cloud. But what does that mean?

Here at Microsoft we interpret the cloud in a broader and more far reaching way than most of the rest of the industry. For the public, the cloud is a far off, vague and misty thing that somehow stores their data so they can get at it from any machine. For some large enterprises it is global clusters of datacenters that can be provisioned to scale up and handle rapidly changing workloads so that data and computation spikes don’t overload IT systems. For others it simply means virtualization and the ability to abstract hardware from services These capabilities are usually called Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and this is the most common definition of the cloud for developers. Less common is an approach to the cloud as platform services – IT and computing services that are freely available and that scale without the need for IT staff and programmers to worry about load and where the services live. This is referred to as Platform as a Service (PaaS) – an operating system complete that is managed and always available.

Unlike our competition, Microsoft views the cloud as ALL of these things – a complete set of hardware, infrastructure, services and tools that span the full range of cloud possibilities from automatic synching of photos and data from a Windows Phone 7 device to a shared site in the cloud all the way up to globally interconnected systems that can scale up and down as needed to match demand and that can work on the kind of computational problems that require days, months or years of calculation – like genome sequencing.

We see the cloud as the foundation for these experiences, where services and software come together across devices. We are investing in a set of platform assets that allow for these cloud-connected device experiences, with a common set of tools, programming languages, runtimes, and skills to accelerate the path to development and deployment.

To give you a taste of the breadth and depth of Microsoft’s cloud offerings, here is a brief rundown.

On the commercial side, we have our applications and collaboration assets such as Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online, our core platform and infrastructure assets such as Windows and SQL that are now available to developers in the Windows Azure platform, and popular desktop productivity tools like Office being delivered as Office 2010 on the Windows PC, in the browser as Office Web Apps, and as Office Mobile on Windows Phone 7. On the consumer side, we continue to scale out and grow our investments in cloud services such as Windows Live, Bing, and Xbox Live.

So what should you do?

If you are a developer, register for PDC and watch the keynotes and sessions. They are all available at the PDC site: www.microsoftpdc.com

If you are generally interested in development issues and the cloud, take a look at our announcements and cloud offerings via the Microsoft News Center and our Cloud section.