Impressed with Microsoft -- finally -- Azure
I, like a lot of other geeks, have become greatly disillusioned with Microsoft in the past several years. I saw them as anti-innovative, fat-cats protected a revenue stream that did not favors for its users, and becoming a stodgy, quaint grandparent in a tech world, where it thought that it was still the same sex object that it was in its early daze.
Microsoft, in my opinion has hung on too long to its archaic operating system which is essentially one big kludge onto top of a stack of turtles of kludges all the way down to the bare silicon. All of their innovations in almost every endeavor from tablets to phones, to music services, have been market failures because they stubbornly resisted changes to their bloated, digital-cholesterol clogged operating system. If they truly want to be innovative, they would ditch it in favor of a brand of QNX or Linux for a sleek, less vulnerable system. Back in the early daze of the 8086 microprocessor, I saw a QNX system being able to boot from one floppy disk, and in its day, that was amazing.
Now that I got that off my chest, I must grudgingly admit that Microsoft has lit a spark that impresses me with their Azure big data suite. If they are going to re-invent themselves and breathe new life back into the corporation and become innovative again, then Azure might be the vehicle.
Big Data is where it is at, and where it is going to be if we want to manage and monetize the Internet of Everything. And Microsoft Azure is trying to create and promulgate products to that end with Azure. I only became aware of Azure when several members of the Azure team followed me on Twitter, and when I checked them out, I realized that it wasn't Bill Gates' Microsoft. I really liked what I saw.
Azure offers data analysis as a service, and they have a free component. It is done in a quasi-cloud environment, and from what I see, once you graduate from the newbie class, the prices is okay. The good news is that there is a link to some pretty nifty free tools. Here is the link:
The tools are varied, useful and intriguing.
Microsoft just may have a chance to dominate the market. Their thin edge of the wedge with azure is great, but they must follow the template of Microsoft Word when it started to dominate the marketplace. Back in the day, personal computers were useful, but not that useful when it came to creating documents electronically. The IBM Selectric typewriter was the weapon of choice to use up reams of paper. Then along came the word processor. Dr. An Wang made a fortune from inventing computer memory, and then sunk his money into Wang Labs headquartered in Lowell Massachusetts. The Wang word processor became ubiquitous for several years. It was a dedicated piece of hardware, and tightly coupled software that didn't do anything else except create formatted documents. Prior to that, electronic documents were printed on a dot matrix or impact printer without stylings. (The Wang OS was the first OS that I successfully hacked).
Microsoft Word came out and essentially destroyed the word processor. It was order of magnitude cheaper, easier to use and a mere fraction of the cost. It is still the dominant document creator to this day. Microsoft needs to do the same thing with Azure.
Right now, a lot of the Azure products use the statistical language R. Other plugins calculate linear regression, and all sorts of stuff like standard deviation, blah blah blah. Microsoft needs to hide that under a big layer of abstraction and make all of that invisible to the end user. Picture the end user who runs a niche cafe in a hip town. Their Point-Of-Sale and computer system collects metrics, meta-data and machine data. The owners of this data has no idea what this data can tell them or how they can increase their revenue streams. They don't know Bayesian inference from degree of confidence.
Microsoft needs to build data analysis for the common person, like they built word processing for the common person. If they do that, they will take their company into the next century. If not, they will be the biggest Edsel of the tech industry. However, for the first time in a long time, I like what I am seeing come out of Microsoft.