In attack on Amazon, Microsoft displays worryingly poor FUD

If EC2 is a 'horseless carriage,' is Azure a Stanley Steamer?

There has been a lot of coverage over Microsoft's missteps lately, many of which mention the dramatic reduction in its fearsomeness since the departure of founder/evil emperor Bill Gates.

There's no clearer sign that some core or focus or competitiveness (or evil) is missing than the alarming decline in the quality of Microsoft's FUD.

Its latest attempt was to class Amazon's market-leading public-cloud computing platform Amazon Web Services as a "horseless carriage."

In a speech, at the Cloud Connect conference in Santa Clara, Calif. yesterday, Microsoft chief strategist Rolf Harms said designing vehicles propelled by engines using the same principles used for carriages ignored many of the potential benefits of the new vehicles.

It's a great concept to say the competition is missing The Big Picture. Harms main point came down to a promise that cloud computing could cost 20 percent what traditional IT does, and that Microsoft's approach is a lot cheaper than Amazon's. Yawn.

In the speech and a polemic he posted on Microsoft's Web site, Harms argued that cloud computing should lead to such dramatic drops in cost for end users that simple economics would force them to shift to a new computing paradigm. (He meant a relatively honest paradigm, unlike most uses of that word in marketing. Here he meant a major shift in the platform underpinning most of corporate computing from servers housed and supported inside corporate data centers to those that live on a mix of virtualized platforms inside and outside the firewall. )

TheRegister points out that Amazon made similar arguments as long ago as 2008.

One interesting but marginally relevant thing about Harms' attack is the comparative weakness of Microsoft's FUD compared to the versions that made competitors' products seem irrelevant compared to the greatness Microsoft was about to deliver, and which led to victories in bouts including Windows 95 vs. MacOS8, Exchange vs. Lotus Notes, Windows NT vs Netware, Microsoft Office vs. Lotus SmartSuite and Corel WordPerfect Office.

The thing that's interesting and relevant is that Microsoft and Amazon are each trying as hard as they can to be like the other. Seems odd, when Microsoft execs are slamming Amazon for missing the boat on cost and effective paradigm shift while doing everything it can to make its Azure PAAS service look and act more like Amazon's IAAS service.

Amazon is doing the same thing. Neither is making the most of the unique advantages of IAAS vs PAAS, while creating connections to make it easier for customers to link a competing service to theirs, to make their cloud an easy-to-use hub for cloud, SAAS and virtual computing.

They're just beating each other up in their marketing while imitating and trying to one-up each other on individual price points and features.

Not the kind of tactic that would take customers' minds off the benefits of a competitors' products, let alone make technology that both works and is available seem obsolete compared to the glorious images of a product that doesn't exist and can't yet demonstrate its flaws.

It's actually a lot more honest approach to just stand on your side of a line and call the other guy names.

It doesn't help you much, because IT customers are generally too smart or cynical to buy it. It doesn't hurt the competitor, who can yell names right back.

But it gives the press a good spitting match to write about, and for that I have to thank Microsoft quite sincerely.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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