When we talked to Bill Gates last November at Mix n Mash, he described Windows Live:
All those consumer services are basically big, big volume. They’re tiny businesses in a sense, but they’re very important for the population of users that you connect up to and the opportunities you get out of that.
Some of the things like state in the sky, obviously we want to do a lot more innovation so that everybody just understands that they should use that. Today, no matter whose thing it is, .Mac or the various eDrive cloud store type things, they actually are all pretty small share, they’re kind of messy to use. We think that by the way that we’ll connect up to Windows in a rich way we’ll be able to do something pretty dramatic there, but that awaits the next big wave that comes along.
So what is “the cloud”, and why is it so important? Specifically, the cloud is a network of data centers, a system that will soon dwarf what exists today, a system that Microsoft is furiously building out. In addition to data centers online now or soon to be in Quincy, WA, Chicago, San Antonio, Ireland, Irkutsk, and a just announced (in this video?) a new center in Iowa, if you listen to Debra Chrapaty talk to Om Malik at Structure 08, Microsoft is just getting started:
Debra Chrapaty with Om Malik video (sorry embedding the BlipTV video didn’t play well with Community Server)
It is clear that Microsoft plans to be a big player in “cloud infrastructure”, and they’re working hard on efficiencies in power and scale, not only to power Microsoft’s online services, but to offer those services to other customers. When Bill Gates talks about the opportunities that Windows Live provides, he’s not interested in “tiny businesses”. The scale and speed at which Microsoft is planning to build out their services, cutting the start to finish time for a data center from 1.5 years to “months”, pre-provisioning with containers to “knock the socks off anything anyone in the industry is doing” is going to drive Windows Live, Office Online, Exchange Online, and more. From what Chrapaty is hinting at, a lot more.