In 5 years, will Microsoft be relevant in the cloud?

All of Microsoft's recent cloud announcements leave me underwelmed

As reported by Network World's John Cox and Jon Brodkin, at Microsoft's annual TechEd conference this week in New Orleans, "industry watchers are looking for Microsoft to sustain the buzz around Windows Phone 7, as well as share details about its cloud computing strategy in general and Azure cloud services in particular." Also, Microsoft is opening a cloud computing center in Taiwan: "Microsoft will also work with two Taiwanese companies to develop a new generation of servers designed for cloud computing."

Or, as Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer put it when talking about cloud computing: "We're all in." Considering all of Microsoft's recent cloud activity, that is clearly the case. But is it enough to capture the huge cloud computing wave?

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The trouble is that Microsoft has always been a follower when it comes new, emerging, and hype-driven technology, then typically leaped into first place by leveraging its dominance on the desktop and penetration of the Global 2000 businesses. That was clearly the case when the Web took off in the early 1990s; Microsoft turned the ship and captured most of the browser and server software market.

But today is a different story. With Apple, Amazon.com, and Google out there with well-funded and innovative solutions, Microsoft is finding its dominance on the desktop may not be enough to launch it into a cloud computing leadership position unless drastic measures are taken.

I've defended Microsoft in the past and its ability to capture the emerging cloud computing productivity application space, and I still believe Google won't be able to displace Microsoft from that market, at least for now. The larger question is in five years, will Microsoft be in the top five cloud computing companies? I'm not sure it will, given its current trajectory.

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