Yesterday Microsoft (MSFT) announced Windows Servers support for Amazon’s (AMZN) EC2. Hours later CEO Steve Ballmer said Redmond will introduce a brand spanking new OS they’re calling, for the time being, “Windows Cloud.” Money quote: “The last thing we want is for somebody else to obsolete us, if we’re gonna get obseleted [sic] we better do it to ourselves.”
No one really knows yet what the heck Ballmer means by “Windows Cloud.” Is it the front-end of the EC2 rival “Red Dog” Microsoft is rumoured to be working on, or something else altogether? Steve was very light on details, promising specifics at Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference on Oct 27. But he did give a few clues, and here’s what Windows Cloud is not.
- It’s not another “Internet Tidal Wave” paradigm-shift moment. Even as he announced Windows Cloud, Ballmer said Windows 7, the succesor to Vista, is on track. Not surprising, given the PC is still a Microsoft cash cow.
- No meaningful change to that other Microsoft cash cow — MS Office. Maybe users will be able to do “light editing” of Office files on the Web, Ballmer said, but serious manipulation of Office files will still be grounded very much off the cloud and on the PC. (Hey Steve, we can already do “light editing” of DOC and XLS files with Google (GOOG) Docs!)
- And here’s the weirdest part: If Microsoft really sees the cloud as a threat that can “obsolete” the company, why did they just ink a deal with Amazon?
More likely than not, Ballmer means some sort of very limited Internet-based extensions for Office or Outlook, perhaps something like Apple’s (AAPL) MobileMe, but more, y’know, “cloud-y.” That will let Ballmer use that hip word “cloud” in press releases while actually preserving Microsoft’s core business, which centres on PC-based computing — the very opposite of the cloud.
Last week Oracle (ORCL) CEO Larry Ellison said “the computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women’s fashion” and made light of cloud computing as a meaningless buzzword. Ballmer isn’t making him eat his words.