Is Microsoft really “all in” on cloud computing?

By admin, March 5, 2010 9:34 am
Is Microsoft really all in on cloud computing?

CEO Steve Ballmer has claimed as much in a speech yesterday at the University of Washington, stating "This is a bet for the company. For the cloud, we're all in."

In light of some of the much noted "software+services" waffling that the company seemed to be so invested in when cloud computing first became a hot topic, it's a difficult claim to credit. Is this just typical Ballmerian hyperbole, or has the company genuinely changed tacks? It's not an idle question for CIOs. "Alignment" is not something that only happens inside your company, it's also something you must find with your vendors to ensure they are and will continue to be the right partners for your business. If Microsoft isn't really committed to cloud computing, then it would be dangerous to rely on them if that's a direction you are trying to go.

From conversations with Microsoft staff I know that at all levels in the company the threat of cloud-based service delivery to their traditional business models looms large, and I sympathize with the plight they face in transitioning between the two eras. So it's not impossible that the great ship is turning, that Ballmer is genuinely planning to bet the company on cloud computing.

If you look at some of the specific claims he makes, though, it seems his definition of cloud computing is a bit more fuzzy than mine. It's difficult, after all, to credit at face value his claim that three-quarters of Microsoft staff are already working on cloud computing, a number set to increase to ninety percent next year. You'd have to accept that everyone working on Windows and Office are in fact building "cloud" services, and that certainly doesn't jibe with my understanding of those products or cloud computing in general. It seems more likely that Ballmer is simply using the trendy, amorphous, marketing version of the term. Which is a shame, because Microsoft's previously outlined strategy seems to me to make good use of the cloud while still supporting and delivering their popular on-premises software. Mary Jo Foley has a more detailed take on the folly of muddying this message. The absurdity of it, in my view, is that it's simply unnecessary for Ballmer to make such claims. Microsoft isn't a leader in cloud computing, but it doesn't need to be; the software plus services strategy seems likely to appeal to many of its current customers and to build on its existing strengths. Microsoft is a strong company with a lot of extraordinarily smart people and some solid products. There's no need to pretend that it is something different.

The next question for anyone doing business with Microsoft is why exactly Ballmer felt a need to do just that. Is it just over-simplification of its actual strategy, as Foley suggests? Or is the company legitimately trying to move even harder and faster toward cloud platforms now?

2 Responses to “Is Microsoft really “all in” on cloud computing?”

  1. tom flanagan says:

    Much is too be learned by Microsoft right now with simple apps where security is less of an issue, like this

  2. tom flanagan says:

    Much is too be learned by Microsoft right now with simple apps where security is less of an issue, more on twitter @irishboy9

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