1. Attract users with free / very low cost, cloud infrastructure
2. Force them to use Google specific APIs aka lock them in
3. Drastically increase prices giving users only a couple of weeks notice
4. Since they're locked in, and can't migrate their app in a couple of weeks, fleece them!
I do hope somebody from Google tells me that I am wrong! :-)
we understand what users are feeling, but i think you're mistaken on some of your points:
1. most Google products are free/low cost. App Engine was/is no exception. it was/is also in it's beta or preview period... a time for users to "try before you buy." however, unlike a standard API, this is a distributed application execution platform, which is not exactly a low-cost service.
many users are comparing App Engine to EC2, but that is not an accurate comparison... yes, both are fruits, but this is really apples vs. oranges. with EC2, *you* have to not only worry about your app, but also *everything else*, like elasticity/scale, operating system, database server, web server, load balancer, licenses, patches/upgrades, etc. i would argue that scalability is the most difficult and most expensive thing to build on your own.
2. this is directly related to #1. the company has spent many years and $$$ to build infrastructure that is "Google-scale," whatever you think that means, and you should have an idea. we've built a system that lets you leverage all the research and horsepower, but because it's all hand-built, you need to use our APIs to take advantage of it! after all, you can't get something for nothing, or can you? perhaps you *can*, if you're developing a Django app using Python.
the Django web framework traditionally relies on a SQL/relational DB, but the django-nonrel project -- http://allbuttonspressed.com -- enables Django apps to run on NoSQL/non-relational databases, including MongoDB and App Engine. (ports to Cassandra, Redis, SimpleDB, etc., are also underway.) what this means is that you can write a traditional Django app but can choose *where* you want to run it, whether it be on App Engine, or via traditional hosting (SQL or non). "lock-in" doesn't exist if you can move your app (and data) to/from App Engine any time you wish with just a change of your settings.py file! i've even written an article to help you port your app from webapp to Django if you wish -- http://code.google.com/appengine/articles/django-nonrel.html
3. the price changes are a reflection of certain key facts:
a. Google as a company backing the entire platform as a product... instead of being cancelled, we're coming out of preview mode and become an official product! Google is not a non-profit company and cannot continue to operate services at a loss. our products, and my paycheck's gotta come from *some*where! coming out of preview means Google is committed to App Engine, and in turn, we're committed to our users.
b. this service costs the company significant resources... premium services like App Engine and YouTube require a lot of hardware and networking bandwidth. We serve more than 1.5 *billion* pages views a day across all applications!
we will continue to work with users over the coming months to help them with any questions or concerns they may have. please reach out toappengine_up...@google.com to send in your feedback and concerns.