How Microsoft is hijacking the cloud

With TV commercials focused on the consumer, Redmond's simplistic definition is obscuring the cloud's full value

We've all seen the commercials. Some problem is occurring, and the exuberant Windows 7 user shouts, "To the cloud!" From there, he or she accesses services on the (presumably) Microsoft cloud to render photos with the family or share documents with other at a startup company. While this commercial campaign may seem innocuous brand marketing, it is building the perception among the masses that Microsoft invented the cloud.

By now, nearly everyone has heard of the cloud, but most people have no idea what it really is. Case in point: The media's reaction to Amazon.com expelling WikiLeaks from its cloud file-serving service. Over and over, I heard puzzled reporters in the popular press who didn't understand what a bookseller had to do with WikiLeaks document hosting.

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Microsoft, though traditionally bad at marketing, is perhaps on to something here. It saw a gap between the popularity of the term "the cloud" and the rank and file's understanding of the cloud, and the company took the opportunity to fill in the gap. Microsoft has defined it in easy-to-understand examples.

The downside is that the general public now considers cloud computing as simple document sharing and photo processing, and it has no idea that the cloud also encompasses elastic, on-demand enterprise-grade storage and compute. Indeed, I've been in a few meetings where businesspeople have learned the Microsoft commercial definition and tell me, when I explain why they should use the cloud, that "we don't need to share photos."

Of course, Microsoft is offering more than photo and document sharing, as a look at the beta version of Office 365 attests. But Microsoft is smart to start with the simple and personal for this commercial campaign. That could reap some real benefits for Microsoft, though it could also lead to more confusion, as an oversimplified definition of cloud computing obscures all its potential.

This article, "How Microsoft is hijacking the cloud," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and follow the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com.

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