While Microsoft tries to regain its footing in the consumer market with a new Windows operating system, the company's cloud computing business keeps on rolling.
The software maker's big news this week was the launch of Windows 10. But let's not lose sight of the escalating battle with Amazon Web Services. In that game, Microsoft is now promoting itself as the cloud provider of choice for the world of connected devices.
As car companies, home security businesses and thermostat makers are linking new gadgets to the Internet, turning every screen into a connected computer, they need to not only store and manage the data in the cloud but also to capture and make sense of it all.
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On Thursday, Microsoft announced a deal with Jasper, a software developer that was preparing for the "Internet of Things" long before the term IoT existed. That follows the introduction earlier this year of the Azure IoT Suite, designed to help companies quickly troubleshoot their systems, improve efficiency and make predictions based on the information flowing off devices.
"What they're looking for is certainly cloud storage, but IoT in many ways is about leveraging the data that they're getting from products," said Macario Namie, vice president of strategy at Santa Clara, California-based Jasper, in an interview.
Jasper was founded in 2004 and works with companies including General Motors on its hands-free calling and emergency response software, Heineken with its keg inventory, and Garmin with staying up to date on traffic conditions and fuel prices.
Partnerships are becoming Microsoft's new path to prosperity. The Redmond, Washington-based company said last week that its commercial cloud revenue jumped 88 percent in the fiscal fourth quarter and the division is now on pace to generate sales of $8 billion a year.
Under CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has forged deals with companies big and small to bring more value to the Azure platform. Two weeks ago, it announced a partnership with Rackspace, which is now providing professional customer support on top of the Azure cloud.
According to Synergy Research Group, Microsoft ranks second in the cloud infrastructure market with 10 percent share, trailing AWS at 28 percent.
The Azure IoT suite isn't even fully available to the public yet, but Microsoft is already beefing up the offering.
"By bringing together the Jasper Platform and the Azure IoT Suite, businesses of any size and in any industry can build cost-effective IoT solutions for themselves or their customers," said Sam George, director of Azure IoT, in Thursday's statement.