Everyone likes to criticize Microsoft. The company routinely gets lambasted about the newest version of Windows or charged with restraint of trade for embedding Explorer and other ancillary software in its award-winning Office Suite. But as far as the Internet of Things (IoT) goes, Microsoft may have a leg up—at least on one of its competitors, Cisco.
Basically, IoT is about connecting all sorts of devices to one another so they can be controlled remotely. This includes things like the thermostat in your home, the burglar alarm at your office, the coffee machine in your kitchen, and, eventually, the washing machine in your dormitory (while you’re at class across campus) or the DVR in your dorm room (which you programmed while overseas on a semester abroad). IoT is about having everything connected and controllable through a single device, say a mobile phone. You can see it happening already: right now our “phones” are used far more often for things other than making calls. Soon we’ll each have a master device that enables us to run our own little worlds from anywhere.
Microsoft, Cisco and all of the other big technology players are in full competitive mode to see who can dominate the business that will be generated by the IoT. And they are each using a different strategy to do it. Microsoft is making its pitch to business leaders—those who run companies and corporate divisions, as well as SMEs. The slogan it’s using is “The Internet of Your Things” (italics mine). This is smart. The Microsoft brochure talks about how the company will help you build on the infrastructure that you already have, to create not just an IoT, but an Internet of Your Things. It makes the IoT, and Microsoft’s services, personal and user friendly. The promotional literature explains terminology and key concepts that most business leaders are not apt to know because they have been running their businesses, not studying a technical manual or reading the blogs on Live Science.
Cisco, on the other hand, doesn’t explain, it assumes. Cisco’s literature assumes its audience already understands some of the more esoteric concepts about the IoT, which suggests that it is pitching its services to tech people. For instance, Cisco’s literature is using the slogan, “From the Cloud to the Fog.” Huh? What’s fog? It turns out that “fog” is a relatively new term referring to collaborative networks of end-users that join together to control data manipulation on the so-called “edge of the cloud” rather than doing it in the cloud itself. Fog computing seems to be designed to give small groups of users more control over their data and to undermine the giant telecom companies that control access to the cloud through LTEs. That’s the gist, according to several authoritative sites that are, notably, not Cisco.
Powerful CEOs and other top dogs often don’t value arcane technical details that they don’t understand. That’s the job of their CIOs. Cisco seems to be taking a risk by engaging primarily the intermediate decision-makers. While it’s true that CIOs will make recommendations to their CEOs, what if the CEO already heard from a peer about Microsoft’s IoT consulting? It’s smart for Microsoft to hedge its bets by making its information attractive and understandable to the non-tech corporate leadership. Microsoft’s pitch is, to use a tech phrase, reverse compatible, but Cisco’s is not. Techies will read Microsoft’s engaging, glossy and illustrated stand-alone brochure, but CEOs and board members are not likely to wade through the boring, text-heavy literature on the Cisco website. This is one instance where the folks at Microsoft show that there’s still some savvy left in Redmond.
Cisco. The Internet of Things (IoT). San Jose, CA: n.d. Web..
Microsoft. Creating the Internet of Your Things. Redmond, WA: 2015. Web.