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Strange bedfellows: Sony to use Microsoft’s Azure cloud for PlayStation to compete with Google’s stadia

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Microsoft and Sony have announced a shocking partnership which will entail the Japanese giant using the Azure cloud service for PlayStation. This is shocking because Microsoft is the maker of Xbox which is the prime competitor to PlayStation. It’s a deeper strategic partnership for gaming, entertainment and silicon technologies. On the face of it, this is a strange partnership amongst companies that traditionally compete with each other but it’s actually a win win situation for both companies. This coming together of strange bedfellows is an attempt to corner Google before it goes prime time with Stadia later this year.

  • Sony’s cloud gaming infrastructure isn’t state of the art to put it mildly and it’s in for big upgrade. Back in 2012, Sony acquired Gaikai which is the bedrock of its game streaming platform and PlayStation Now. While a cutting edge concept at the time, it used servers from the likes of Amazon. Microsoft’s Azure cloud was partially developed for Xbox Live alongside Bing. Azure will be the underlying infrastructure for Microsoft’s rumoured XCloud which is said to compete with Google’s Stadia. If Sony has to compete in this new era of cloud based distributed game streaming, it needs better infrastructure. It’s neither a Microsoft or Google which is a powerhouse in the cloud, nor does it have the money to create something new. Microsoft’s legacy in gaming makes it the perfect partner.
  • Microsoft’s Azure cloud service is a distant second to Amazon Web Services. The addition of Sony’s PlayStation and entertainment services to its portfolio isn’t just prestigious — it will rake in a lot of money and will take away a big customer from its biggest rival — Amazon. For Microsoft, Sony will be a very important client, make no mistake, but PlayStation Now will get an immediate boost using Azure as it is perceived to be much slower than Xbox Live. This will help drive a better gaming experience which could in turn drive better PlayStation sales. Considering the PlayStation 5 is scheduled for 2020, to build a next generation cloud based gaming solution Sony needs a strong infrastructure partner right now so that it deliver a robust online experience from the get go.
  • Microsoft and Sony will have each others services land on the front porch of each other’s consoles. This is likely more important for Microsoft than Sony. This will also enable cross-platform online gaming something that Sony hasn’t embraced wholeheartedly.
  • Sony’s image sensors and semiconductor technology is at the forefront of augmented reality and AI technologies. Microsoft with its Azure AI platform and HoloLens AR headset could benefit from Sony’s hardware technologies. Afterall, Sony is the vendor which is providing a majority of image sensors that go in phones, including the iPhone which is home to the biggest AR platform and even the Google Pixel. Sony is the logical partner for Microsoft’s AR ambitions.
  • Last but not the least is the announcement of Google’s Stadia. If there was anything that held back Microsoft and Sony from joining hands, then Google’s GDC announcement would’ve put an end to all the jitters. Google has the money, the cloud computing network and technology and is the parent of the world’s two most dominant computing platforms in Android and Chrome coupled with the world’s largest streaming service in YouTube. If Stadia takes off, Microsoft and Sony’s storied gaming platforms will die because Google touches billions of more users.

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