For the longest time, Google and Amazon coexisted peacefully. Amazon worked on becoming the Web’s general store, Google focused on search, and ne’er the two came into conflict. That’s perhaps about to change in a big way. On the consumer front, Google’s newly unveiled Nexus 7 tablet is clearly meant to occupy at least some of the ground currently owned by Amazon’s Kindle Fire. Both Android-based devices feature 7-inch screens and tight integration with a multimedia content hub (Amazon’s own e-books and streaming services, in the Fire’s case; the Nexus 7 has Google Play). Both face a fierce competitor in the form of Apple’s iPad, which currently dominates the tablet market. But Nexus 7-vs.-Kindle Fire could be a mere skirmish compared to the battle over cloud computing platforms. For years, Amazon Web Services have operated as a popular destination for companies seeking Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). According to reports, Amazon originally started up AWS when it realized that other businesses and developers had a need for computing capacity, and quickly evolved the tools necessary to deliver that service. Now Google’s leaping into the same IaaS game with its newly announced Google Compute Engine, designed to give businesses and developers access to the same well of processing power that Google uses to index the Internet and serve its cloud-based services. “Access to computing resources at this scale can fundamentally change the way you think about tackling a problem,” Craig McLuckie, product manager for Google Compute Engine, wrote in a June 28 corporate blog posting. With Google Compute Engine, users can launch 1,2,4, and 8 virtual-core Linux virtual machines on demand (each virtual core offers 3.75GB RAM). Users have a variety of storage options for their data, including Google Cloud Storage. By connecting the virtual machines into clusters (and controlling them via scriptable command-line tools or Web UIs), users can harness a considerable amount of computing power towards whatever goal. When it comes to brand recognition, Google is on par with Amazon. But will companies feel comfortable with jumping from Jeff Bezos’ IaaS offerings to an alternative? It could come down to pricing. Potential spoilers include Microsoft, which already harbors a serious grudge against Google, and has its own wide-ranging plans for the cloud.   Image: Google