Microsoft’s four-plus year old Azure Marketplace is composed of two major pieces: apps and data. Both are available through monthly subscriptions that you as an individual select. Its strength is in apps, as you would expect from Microsoft, with more than 650 of them in the current catalog. Many of those apps aren’t unique to this venue and can be found elsewhere online, including at the originating sellers’ websites. There are less than 200 data sets available, with about half of them completely free and another several dozen that have free or limited trial offers.
The Marketplace doesn’t have much in common with the regular cloud-based Azure PaaS service, other than the common name. What it has going for it is that it works with a set of query tools that can integrate with desktop apps (PowerPivot, Tableau and most importantly Excel links), an open data protocol (OData), its own preview engine (Service Explorer) and of course the cloud service which serves as the backend for hosting all these datasets and running various SQL databases.
Microsoft is building a core set of protocols and desktop tools that can be used to query and analyze large collections of data. They are doing this in a way that they did when they added Internet Explorer to the basic underlying operating system, to extend the PC desktop to the Internet in a way that seems natural and useful.