I was fortunate enough to attend two Cloud Computing conferences today. They were right next door to each other in Seattle, one at the Sheraton (CloudFair2012) and the other at the Convention Center (Cloud Intelligence Conference). It was an interesting study in the current state of tech marketing because the CloudFair was dominated by Google and the Could Intelligence Conference by Microsoft. While it is not really fair to make a full comparison because I could only attend part of each (the CloudFair is in the workshop day of a three day conference and the Cloud Intelligence Conference was only a one day thing), it was a great way to see the contrast between how Google and Microsoft reach out to their markets differently.
The experience reminded me of the great exchange between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs at the All Things D conference in 2007 where Walt Mossberg asked them what they appreciated most about each other and Steve said that he admired Bills ability to partner, and Bill said he wished he had Steve’s sense of style. Two great companies, two completely different approaches. The same can be said for Google and Microsoft. Microsoft still knows partners and Google’s “style” is to turn as many of its engineers into marketers as possible.
Microsoft Knows Partners
At the Cloud Intelligence Conference, the speakers were mostly talking about Microsoft Azure and Office 365, and most of the speakers were not from Microsoft, but partners of Microsoft that help Microsoft customers run their Microsoft products. These partners are formidable companies in themselves, and some have products that integrate closely with Microsoft’s offerings. The speakers were talented, had a great deal to contribute and were not just pitching their own services. Since just about every company has Microsoft in its IT infrastructure somewhere, it is a given that the audience were already Microsoft customers. The presenters took advantage of this fact and were helping Microsoft customers see what was on the way to them from the mothership. The negative of this approach was that the audience did not feel that they were getting the inside view into Microsoft, and there was a bit of a theme of ‘yes we are keeping up with the cool kids’. Neither of these is going to push customers off of a platform already through their organizations.
Google Is Not Evil and Engineers are Not Marketers
Google as a company defines itself by declaring what it is not (evil) and continues that method with Google engineers declaring they are engineers and not marketers. These guys were great speakers, very knowledgeable, easy to listen to, and clearly passionate about Google products. In addition, and in contrast to Microsoft, they did a good job of letting the audience get a sense for the inside Google perspective. Developers do like that kind of thing a lot. The talks were clearly aimed right at the users with no reference to partners or how a partner could use this technology to take better care of its clients. It is very possible that there were partners in the audience that were going to do just that. It was interesting that the Google guys were both published authors and took the opportunity to plug their books. I suppose this could be a result of Google’s culture of academia (where college professors are always writing and plugging their books). It was a bit ironic however, because they did say they were not going to try to sell the audience anything, well except their books.
Great change only happens when innovation makes things 10 times better. Clearly the tools available to businesses through the cloud are at least 10 times better, so this is going to be a time of great change and it is hard not to be excited about it. It will be interesting to continue to observe these two great companies build their tools and their markets. Along the way Microsoft will surprise everyone and innovate, and Google may even surprise themselves and do some marketing.