I attended Steve Ballmer’s talk about Cloud Computing this morning at the LSE. While rather a vacuous affair – high on drama low on content – it was interesting (though perhaps unsurprising) to see him focus on devices rather than software.
First he talked about the creation of “Clouds in a box” – that data-centres should be black-boxed – a kind of shipping container that you site in your car-park and only plug in the electricity, water (for cooling) and internet. This aligns well with Oracle’s vertical integration (through purchase of Sun) to provide a similar product which does everything in one rack. Both are compelling if they can really remove the maintenance costs of data-centres (which are currently high) but allow corporates to keep “server hugging” rather than moving to outside cloud providers. Is this cloud? The debate continues to rage?
Secondly he talked about cloud access devices and the consumer – arguing that these will remain smart and vital. This was a nod towards the XBox and Windows Mobile 7 and a refusal to mention Apple or Google.
To discount Windows as has-been on mobile or tablet is though to ignore the legacy Windows Mobile has in the corporate marketplace – tablets on shop-floors, delivery drivers, production lines are mostly Windows based devices. Sure Apple has stolen a lead – but Microsoft might be able to produce something which is closer to the corporate requirement (a big “might” here). This is a very competitive space (RIM/Apple/Google etc) so we will have to see when the new phone is launched in a couple of weeks.
More significant though was his pointer towards the XBox and Kinect. This is an innovative device which rids the games console of the controller and allows face and voice recognition and 3D motion capture. Demonstrated through games (unsurprisingly) it shows users jumping up and down or waving hands in the living room to control a car or boat – without holding any controller in their hands.
What is interesting for the cloud however is that XBox is currently the only networked device which is linked to a cloud-provider and which sits in the living room connected to a TV. Its competitors – Playstation isn’t very Cloud-enabled and Sony don’t seem to exploit its networking. Further it is generally sited in teenage bedrooms – next to the laptop. Wii is in the living room for the whole family but is just not powerful enough or networked enough to be a cloud access device.
This is therefore a potential key market for Microsoft’s Cloud Services going into the home -and accessed by XBox Kinetic. Expect a range of consumer cloud services marketed through this device soon aiming to squeeze Google out of the consumer space! I imagine we will soon be able to read HotMail by waving towards our tv screen.
For more on the talk see the following blog: