Microsoft's AI ambitions

Azure and Microsoft's Intelligent Cloud is the company's most lucrative business. As cloud computing has grown from data storage to more sophisticated, machine learning-enabled analysis and management, Microsoft has worked to develop AI products it can bundle inside Azure.

Microsoft may be one of the most misunderstood companies on earth. For many, its name brings up images of Windows (originally released in 1985), Office (1990), and Xbox (2001). For those people, the company belongs to a past age when customers purchased software packages and companies made money via licensing.

But there's another class of Microsoft products that are new and extremely profitable. The stunning success of its Azure cloud computing platform, for example, helped Microsoft pass Apple to become the world's most valuable company last fall.

The victory was short lived, however. Soon, Microsoft lost the mantle to Amazon and its own cloud platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS).

AWS is Amazon's most lucrative business. It's also the market leader in the cloud computing. Azure, Microsoft's new bread winner, is second.

The cloud market rose 39% this year and represents a vast, open market for both companies.

As large corporations, medical groups, universities, and government bodies look to move their data and operations to cloud services, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and to a lesser extent Oracle, IBM, and Alibaba are competing for their business.

And as the client base expandeds, so to are the services.

The Azure cloud and AI

Azure and Microsoft's Intelligent Cloud is Microsoft's most lucrative business. While AWS's clients include the likes of Netflix, Twitch, Facebook and LinkedIn, Microsoft's history of licensing software to other businesses has helped it win valuable, longterm corporate contracts.

The competition for these clients is about more than data storage. Both Microsoft and Amazon are competing to sell technology that would normally give them an advantage over their competitors:

Microsoft's AI investments

Microsoft's AI partnerships and investments often involve its partners moving their operations to Azure, in addition to building on top of it. This allows Microsoft to develop Azure's platform and increase its client base.

Below is a list of Microsoft's recent partnerships and investments: