Microsoft is killing the cloud

Published: February 4th, 2011

Last year, CDN named cloud computing its Top Newsmaker of 2010. On Gartner’s hype cycle, you could peg the cloud on the top of the peak of inflated expectations. Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) seems to be in a hurry to move things along though, and drive the cloud into the trough of disillusionment.

How else to explain their baffling television campaign aimed at the consumer market that seems to invent a completely new definition of cloud computing, sowing confusion and further diluting the meaning of a term that every marketer and their brother is now stretching and attaching to their widgets. I received a press release the other day about a “cloud-enabled” router. Kid you not.

But back to Microsoft’s “cloud” commercials. They feature ordinary folks solving every-day problems on their computers with the help of “the cloud.” A woman trying to take a family photo isn’t able to get everyone smiling at once. So she takes a bunch of photos, flings them into the cloud or something, and presto, she gets the perfect family photo.

In another, a couple is at the airport waiting for a delayed flight. So they fire up their laptop, access the digital video on their home computer – to the cloud! — and watch reality television. “Yeah, cloud!” one of them says, for no apparent reason.

From Microsoft’s commercials, you’d think “the cloud” was some magical cousin of the tooth ferry that edits photos and records episodes of The Bachelor, and what not. Now, their definition-stretching might be alright if these commercials were describing services actually provided, you know, through the cloud. But the airport example is about remote desktop access; the video is on their home desktop. And the photo family is using Windows Live Essentials’ Photo Fuse tool on their hard drive. Nothing leaves their desktop or goes to the cloud.

Microsoft was somewhat of a late comer to the cloud bandwagon in the enterprise space, stubbornly sticking to its software+services branding before finally embracing the cloud in a big way. But they’re hurting their efforts in the business arena by muddying the definition of cloud computing.

But that’s not what confuses me about the Microsoft commercials. What confuses me is why they’re bringing the cloud into them in the first place. In the business market, there I can see, although not appreciate, a marketer’s desire to slap the cloud buzzword on everything.

In the consumer space, though, I doubt 99.9 per cent of people have even heard the term cloud computing. So why appropriate this business buzzword and distort its meaning for your consumer campaign? It doesn’t make sense. My Mom has no idea what the cloud is, nor does she care.

Anyway, as a sufferer of cloud fatigue, if Microsoft does manage to beat the annoying cloud hype with a shovel and bury it thanks to these ads, I’ll be relieved. I long for the quiet of the plateau of productivity.

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.