How Microsoft is striking back against the Apple-IBM partnership

Microsoft Chief Executive Satya NadellaREUTERS/China DailyMicrosoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella gestures as he speaks during a forum at Tsinghua University in Beijing September 25, 2014.

Ernst & Young just signed a new partnership deal with Microsoft to get enterprises to use more Microsoft technologies, specifically Microsoft’s cloud, Azure.

This comes one month after Microsoft signed a similar new partnership agreement with KPMG.

These partnerships are not new. Microsoft’s consulting services isn’t a huge part of its business so it’s had a relationship with both of these large firms for eons. (In fact, here’s a funny press release from 2000 announcing a practice called “Microsoft” which helped businesses fire up websites and sell stuff on the internet.)

What’s new is that these companies aren’t just trying to get businesses to use Azure. They are trying to get businesses to use the more expensive, higher-margin offerings hosted on Azure, things like data analytics.

There’s a lot at stake. IBM has linked arms with Apple to have IBM’s huge consulting force help people ditch Microsoft for Apple devices using apps that run on IBM’s cloud.

Amazon will this week finally share details about how well its cloud is doing, and everyone expects that the numbers will show that it is, by far, the biggest cloud provider out there.

As we previously reported, Microsoft is actually having great success in getting its enormous roster of large Microsoft customers to get Azure accounts, as long as those accounts are added to their broader software contracts (known as enterprise agreements) and come at little to no extra cost at first.

Microsoft is now pushing its salesforce hard (with some success) to get those enterprise customers to actually use the cloud they paid for. The next step is to get those customers to use the cloud for the more expensive, higher-margin services Microsoft offers.

And it’s now turned to its trusted old friends at E&Y and KPMG to help.

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