Microsoft needs to step up its cloud game

Microsoft is making real progress in move to cloud computing, but it's not leading -- while Amazon, Apple, and Google are

As InfoWorld's Ted Samson pointed out this week, Microsoft is intertwining Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and Windows Azure to help developers build multiplatform, cloud-friendly apps. It announced a batch of new services and functionality for its cloud platform, including the extension of Windows Azure Mobile Services to support for Windows Phone 8.

The move should provide easy cloud-based mobile application development for those loyal to Microsoft platforms. Microsoft even provides a store to sell these Azure-built applications. But something's still missing from Microsoft's cloud picture.

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The core issue is that a company the size of Microsoft should be doing more leading and less following. All the technologies and services Microsoft announced this week for its cloud ecosystem were born, proven, and executed by other companies, such as Apple, Google, and Amazon.com. Microsoft is looking much less innovative than these competitors, so it's much less likely to capture and hold the emerging $50 billion cloud computing market.

I have a few pieces of advice to my friends in Redmond:

First, stop adopting the strategies of other successful cloud companies. Microsoft is hardly alone in having a WAID (whatever Amazon is doing) approach -- Oracle and Hewlett-Packard are also cloud WAIDers. But to break out from the me-too pack, Microsoft needs to find its own path, including new cloud services that drive both developers and users back to Microsoft.

Second, open up a bit. The big issue with Microsoft is that its products are largely closed systems. Those companies that are moving into cloud computing have lock-in nightmares, which is slowing them down and paralyzing many others. Cloud providers need to figure out how to address that lock-in issue up front. I'm waiting impatiently for Microsoft to jump feet-first into open cloud standards.

Third, leverage your desktop dominance. Although Azure is designed to work on Microsoft's desktop platforms and software, actual integration with its Windows and Office ecosystem seems to be an afterthought. Seamless yet loosely coupled integration of the cloud and the desktop is something that Microsoft can -- and should -- do better.

Microsoft has some real potential in cloud computing. If only it would commit to being a star player, not a minor leaguer.

This article, "Microsoft needs to step up its cloud game," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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