Much has been written about the recent Microsoft announcements of both it’s
Azure Cloud Computing platform and it’s intention to announce the web-based
delivery of it’s Office suite of products. I can’t add much to the technical
discussion but a few posts lately got me thinking.
First up Rodrigo posted, wondering why Microsoft would pre-announce their
intention to make an announcement sometime in the future. He then asks what it
will mean for SaaS in generally and existing providers in particular. His answer
was two fold;
- It’s great for SaaS generally – it’s the biggest of the big validating the
concept (never mind that MS call it Software + Services)
- For the existing players it’s also beneficial – sure there’ll be more
competition, but it will be more competition in a vastly bigger market – it’s
all about growing the pie and worrying about ones size of the slice at a later
The the unreasonablemen asked the question whether any one player can become dominant
in the provision of cloud services;
with all of the sales & marketing resources at the disposal, could one
company accelerate the growth of the cloud computing market and physically grow
Of course this gets to the heart of the recent discussions about single
megalithic cloud providers vs many varied providers. I can’t help but think that
the horse has well and truly bolted on the "one size fits all" mentality. The
long tail has made many of us accustomed to tailored and specific offerings and
the economies just aren’t there for the big boys to customise up to this level.
But the big boys don’t necessarily want long tail – they want mass market…
What’s missing is the ability to connect these components [... massive
datacenters, social networking sites, cell phones that double as digital
cameras, large flat-screen PC monitors and HD TV screens, hands-free digital car
entertainment ...] in a seamless continuum of information, communication, and
computing that isn’t bounded by device or location. Today, some things that our
intuition says should be simple still remain difficult, if not impossible. Why
can’t we easily access the documents we create at work on our home PCs? Why
isn’t all of the information that customers share with us available instantly in
a single application? Why can’t we create calendars that automatically merge our
schedules at work and home?
Of course Mike pointed out that most of what Ballmer claims is missing is
only missing from Microsoft products – most of it can already be done using
existing offerings from Cloud Computing providers.
The fact is that the vast majority of the world is wedded to
Microsoft so for them the fact is that much of what Ballmer mentioned may as
well not be achievable anywhere – if you can’t do it in Microsoft, you can’t do
it at all is their perception.
So put all of this together and what do you have?
- For all intents and purposes (ie for the mass market) Microsoft is poised to
"make the market"
- Existing vendors will see an increasing market size as Microsoft’s forays
mean that Cloud Computing itself goes mainstream
- There’ll be some antsy players out there who have been sweating blood for
years trying to build an industry – only to have MS come and announce it like
it’s a new idea or something
Mike closes up saying that he has;
an underlying feeling that whilst Microsoft have undoubtedly been working on
this for sometime their timing has been forced by the growing tide of major
organisations worldwide jumping ship and going to the cloud. Aaaaand, their
release of "beta" software has definitely been in response to the perception
that they are slow, unresponsive and are getting beaten by Google every
So; arrogant or smart? If you’re in the former camp you be saying that
Microsoft’s entire software + services play was a head-in-the-sand attempt to
stand against a rapidly encroaching tide, their arrogance has put them on the
back-foot and minimised their chances of success. If you’re in the latter camp
you’ll say that Microsoft found the perfect sweet spot in terms of timing – late
enough to maximise revenue through desktop software, but still early enough to
be able to convincingly tell the majority of users that Cloud Computing at a
user level is predominantly their own domain.
So which camp do you belong to?
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