Matt Garman, AWS

Amazon cloud exec’s pop at Microsoft demonstrates the importance of cloud and regulation

It’s not all bragging on LinkedIn. Sometimes it’s slagging, says Jason Walsh
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Matt Garman, AWS

27 July 2022

Astonishingly, it turns out that business social network and stealth recruitment platform LinkedIn plays host to more than marketing and junior executives bragging about businesses ESG performance. Sometimes at least.

Last week Matt Garman, AWS senior vice president of sales & marketing, posted on the site saying Microsoft was back to its old anti-competitive tricks, this time in the cloud computing sector.

“Customers and policy makers around the world increasingly see MSFT’s [sic] recent licensing rhetoric as a troubling admission of the same anti-competitive tactics that many companies have been raising with them for years, but went unheeded until they were put before the European Commission,” he wrote, going on to describe Redmond’s licencing practices as “discriminatory”.

 

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The battle in Seattle is interesting not just because it is amusing to see corporate executives giving out, but also because Amazon demanding fair competition could never fail to raise a smile. There is something slightly more important at stake, however, as cloud computing eats away at the territory of formerly locally-installed and stored software and data, both on the server and the desktop, control of access to the cloud becomes more and more important.

Microsoft, for its part, recently announced that it will allow competing providers, albeit only smaller ones, to offer Windows and Office as part of hosted desktop solutions. In the EU. Not in the US where, apparently, digital rights is merely a prefix for management.

For all of the EUs faults, the bloc is at least taking the threat of tech monopolies – and the reality of tech monopolies – seriously.

Issues of trust

Of course, Microsoft is facing an antitrust lawsuit from a number of cloud providers in the EU and doubtless this helped to somewhat clarify thinking back at HQ. Nonetheless, the point stands that as our working lives, and even our actual lives, slip deeper into the cloud, access to essential services cannot be left to the caprice of any one company. Nor is Microsoft, by any stretch of the imagination, alone in seeking to take advantage of its foothold. Indeed, Amazon’s gripe may well boil down to the fact that while AWS is the developers’ choice, Azure remains the path of least resistance for most businesses, large and small. It should also be pointed out that Microsoft’s success is not down simply to boardroom or IT department inertia – the company’s products are compelling.

Still, everything going to the cloud is enough to make you want to switch to Linux, if for no other reason than to get off the services merry-go-round altogether. Reader, I jest: I’ve already done that. For my money, getting out of the cloud is a better business decision than getting into it, but I appear to be alone in thinking so. Beyond that is a larger role for the EU and for European countries individually. Two, in fact: regulation and investment, from chip making right the way up the IT stack.

Hands-up, I have made light of the apparent Amazon-Microsoft standoff, but Europe’s lagging in tech is no laughing matter, and a lot of it is because core technologies simply were not developed here, leaving European firms to pick over the, admittedly profitable, bones of service provision or marketing in disguise as IT. For every Arm or ASML, Europe is home to a thousand Who Cares Companies, and Ireland in particular has wasted its talent base by never quite getting past making itself a comfy home for foreign direct investment.

It would be folly to try to create an underfunded European alternative to Google, well, folly to try it a second time, but as time passes it is becoming more and more apparent that the US, and indeed China, are leagues ahead in the technology that runs our lives. Many balls have been dropped since the 1980s computing boom that made household names of Olivetti, Apricot, Acorn, Nixdorf and Bull (in my house anyway), but that is no reason to resign the continent to forever playing the triangle in the information technology orchestra.

LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft, by the way.

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