Microsoft continues to emphasize "the cloud"

Microsoft held a meeting for financial analysts today to present the company’s strategy for its consumer, enterprise and small and medium business markets. A clear theme ran throughout the presentations: Microsoft’s continued emphasis on the industry transformation taking place around cloud computing.

During the past year, Microsoft’s message focused on providing customers choice. It was the customer’s decision as to whether they preferred cloud computing solutions or traditional “on-premise” solutions. Nevertheless, Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner admitted that sending this message to customers was a mistake. From now on, Microsoft would be “leading with the cloud.”

Although Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, took the stage today to present the company’s consumer market strategy, he has been promoting the company’s commitment to the cloud. During a recent speech at the University of Washington, he affirmed that Microsoft is “all in” when it comes to cloud computing.

Turner touted the company’s experience and strength in enterprise computing when comparing itself to competitors such as Google and VMware. He spoke of a number of cloud computing wins with companies such as Coke Enterprises, McDonald’s and others. And he highlighted that 70% of the company’s cloud computing wins during the latest quarter were new customers. (The company reported a 22% increase in revenue in the fourth quarter over the same period last year.)

Many analysts, investors and entrepreneurs believe that the move to cloud computing is momentous and on a par with previous industry transitions such as the move from mainframe computing to desktop computing. Also, most agree that the transition is still in the early stages. According to research firm Gartner, worldwide cloud services revenues should grow from $56 billion in 2009 to $150 billion in 2013.

Although most IT providers such as Salesforce, Rackspace and Google have their own cloud initiatives, a recent report named Amazon’s cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services, and IBM as “cloud champions” with other vendors (including Microsoft) relatively close behind. Judging from Microsoft’s rhetoric during today’s meeting, cloud computing will be a consistent theme for the company in the future.

[Full disclosure: I recently did some work as a contract lecturer on technology trends for Microsoft.]

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