Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)  announced they will begin charging for usage of Bing Search API. Subscriptions are expected to start at $40 a month for 20,000 queries. The good news is that Microsoft says that the Bing Search API 2.0 will remain free for now but will eventually cost money for access.

The company says that the subscriptions for usage will go through their Windows Azure Marketplace where developers will be able to try out the 2.0 version for free right now. In addition, they defend the new subscriptions with saying that there will be “more opportunities to monetize”.

Azure is a cash cow for Microsoft and it is a good tool for developers because of its promises for a performance boost. Many developers and users swear by the service saying that it is a valuable tool. However, Microsoft faces fierce competition from Amazon’s CloudSearch which integrates with AWS products.

Microsoft obviously has a lot of confidence in their Azure program and they are going banking on the service to help lift margins and gain share for competitors such as Amazon.

In addition to Azure, Microsoft is banking on the new Windows 8 which has received mixed reviews. Originally, the new operating system received some poor feedback after a sampler came out but since then consumers have been more optimistic.

Microsoft really needs Windows 8 to be a hit because they are starting to fall behind the other tech titans such as Google and Apple. Unfortunately, Microsoft has been very conservative with moving into other markets which has cost them dearly with mobile phones, for example. The Windows phones are not on the same level as the Android or the iPhone by any means. That missed opportunity will further place Microsoft towards the back of the party.

Microsoft management has been criticized a lot in the last few years for not innovating enough and not producing results for shareholders. A once high flying tech titan, Microsoft has certainly cooled over the past decade. Unlike its competitors, Microsoft is more of a value stock than say Google or Apple.

We will wait and see if Windows 8 performs on a grand scale, thereby placing Microsoft back as a contender. The new operating system is due out by the holiday season this year however, there have been conflicting reports that the deadline is not reasonable and that production has hit a few snags. Hopefully, Microsoft can figure this out and launch the new system by the holidays to take advantage of the holiday sales season.