I have written quite a few blogs about major changes at Microsoft® since Satya Nadella became the CEO in 2014. Under his predecessors, the company had a well-deserved reputation for being a ruthless competitor against anything that wasn’t Windows™ based, but the competitive landscape has changed, and Microsoft no longer has the dominance they once enjoyed.
Microsoft recently announced Azure™ Sphere, an operating platform to enhance the security of the rapidly growing Internet of Things (IoT). The fact that Microsoft is investing in the IoT comes as no surprise, but the element that makes this announcement unusual is that the underlying operating system is based upon Linux! Microsoft has traditionally been very critical of the open source OS, as it has been considered by many to be the most credible threat to Windows.
Azure Sphere is more than just a new OS, and from a technology perspective, it’s not a good fit for the size and complexity of Windows. Azure Sphere is designed to address security vulnerabilities in the billions of new connected devices such as cameras, smart appliances and connected toys. Azure Sphere includes a Microsoft-designed microcontroller (MCU), which Microsoft claims is five times more powerful than existing microcontrollers. The IP for the new MCUs will be licensed to chip makers at no charge. Of course, Microsoft isn’t about to give away everything. The new platform must he hosted on Azure, where the devices will receive security updates for at least ten years.
The IoT is reportedly growing by about 9 billion devices per year. With so many new devices connected to the internet, users have become increasingly vulnerable to security and privacy threats. Microsoft’s strategy is that by bundling and controlling the silicon, OS and the hosting environment, they will be able to greatly increase the security of connected devices on their platform.