Earlier this week HP, Intel, and Yahoo! announced a plan to cooperate on a cloud computing testbed. It appears to me like there is a race to prove who is investing more research into this arena. IBM has already announced a couple of initiatives on this front.
Meanwhile Amazon continues to plow along by offering more and more services (the most recent being the various checkout options).
While there is no doubt that the research efforts are important, here's another idea for the big systems vendors that appear to have tons of money to promote cloud computing...
I think they should hold a business plan contest across the major universities looking for the next great web / cloud computing idea. Once they find it, they should offer to build the infrastructure for free.
Think American Idol meets web entrepreneurship. The contest could generate tons of publicity among the early adopter student crowd. The students could vote on the ideas. Crowdsourcing input on the best idea would give the selected service a head-start in user-adoption and spur the whole effort to get over the early adopter hurdles quickly.
Could be interesting....and in my opinion a lot more fun that a traditional research effort.