Unless deeply isolated in a programming niche, every one of us has come to appreciate how fast technology around us is changing. Not only changing in an absolute sense, but changing the way programming is done. With few exceptions, the imperative for fast, responsive development has swept up both the client side and the server, forcing enterprises to entirely reconsider how they use software and how they develop it.
In such an environment, how have large IT vendors fared? If we look at the top names in desktop and enterprise technology, we find a very mixed slate: HP, IBM, and Dell are struggling -- all of them involved in multi-year turnaround efforts. Oracle had flat revenue for 2013 as it tries to establish legitimacy in the cloud and on mobile devices. Whereas Microsoft has thrived. Revenue for 2013 was up 5%. This gain was notched despite a poorly accepted Windows 8 release that was, according to pundits, going to make or break the company. Microsoft was frequently identified as one of the companies most at risk as we enter into the post-PC era, and yet it has grown. What gives?
Many factors have contributed to Redmond's surprising success, but two in particular stand out: Microsoft embraced the cloud early and vocally, and it began delivering new software releases much more quickly.
The importance of its cloud platform, Microsoft Azure, to the company's future can be seen in the promotion of the former chief of the cloud initiative, Satya Nadella, to the position of CEO earlier this year. From this, we can certainly infer that Microsoft will continue to push its cloud: Azure for business apps, and Office 365 (Microsoft's Office in the cloud offering) for personal productivity. While Amazon might have a huge lead in IaaS, I'm hard-pressed to see a more ready competitor than Microsoft. HP, IBM, Google, and Oracle all have cloud offerings, but only IBM's (and to a lesser extent, Google's) has gotten any real traction among enterprises so far.
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