Microsoft’s Plans for Cloud Computing Influence: Incubating Startups

Microsoft’s Plans for Cloud Computing Influence: Incubating Startups

For a long time now, Microsoft’s selling proposition has been to make Windows and Office users customers for life. There’s an even chance that if you were a Windows 3.1 user years ago, you are a Windows 7 user today. Of course, there are many who have shifted allegiance to the Mac, but compared to the hundreds of millions who still sign on to a Windows machine every day, that number is disproportionately small. If you combine this with the user base of Microsoft office, and there are Office users on platforms other than Windows, and it’s easy to see why Larry Ellison of Oracle had once declared, “Bill Gates is the pope of the personal computer industry. He decides who’s going to build.”

However, unlike desktop computing, Microsoft faces stiff resistance in the world of cloud computing. Therefore, it has taken several steps, both evolutionary and revolutionary, to ensure it occupies a leading position in this field. This has included making its ever-popular Office suite available on the cloud (See: Microsoft Office 365 – Reviewed In Plain English), as well as offering products for free (See: Microsoft’s Biggest Client, or Just a PR Stunt? – Part II). Now, Microsoft has announced plans to influence (and get influenced by) the next generation of cloud computing innovation by incubating startups in four countries.

This incubation program, called Accelerator for Windows Azure, has been launched simultaneously in Beijing (China), Bangalore (India), Tel Aviv (Israel) and Seattle (US). As for the choice of locations, here are my thoughts. China and India are obviously the marketplaces of the future, and cloud computing developments in both these countries have been extensively covered by me (See: Cloud Computing and India, Emerging Superstars of the 21st Century and Cloud Valley: China’s Cloud Computing Initiative and the Man behind It). Israel is a hotbed of high-tech innovation, and Seattle, as any cloud computing industry professional in the US knows, has one of the largest concentration of cloud companies, with its low electricity rates being a prime driver.
“The startups will have access to our resources such as BizSpark programme and $60,000 in Azure credit through BizSpark Plus programme to take advantage of the cloud,” Microsoft India (R&D) Managing Director Amit Chatterjee told reporters. “The startups will have the benefit of mentorship and coaching from successful entrepreneurs, leading venture capitalists and industry leaders. We are also partnering with industry mentors to provide start-ups with the support they need to innovate and become successful businesses.”

Startups are very important in a dynamic field like cloud computing, and it’s not unusual that the likes of Microsoft and Rackspace (See: Why is Rackspace targeting Startups?) are paying them extra attention. With Microsoft’s support, we can expect something special from the startups being incubated.

By Sourya Biswas

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