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The opening panel at the 2016 GeekWire Summit. Left to right: Nick Wingfield, Jay Greene, Mary Jo Foley, GeekWire co-founder and moderator Todd Bishop (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)

Amazon Web Services and Microsoft will likely hang onto their first- and second-place rankings, respectively, in the public-cloud arena, three top-level journalists said this morning at the 2016 GeekWire Summit, which officially kicked off on Monday evening in Seattle.

“Microsoft by most accounts is the number-two player, but it has an advantage in its hybrid play,” said Mary Jo Foley, a contributor to ZDNet. “I know a lot of people think that’s because they have on-premises software to keep selling, but it’s something Amazon Web Services doesn’t have. It gives Microsoft a very strong secret weapon.”

Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Greene said it would be difficult for anyone new to break into the public-cloud space today.

“IBM and Oracle have plenty of cash, but the amount of money required to get into this business is enormous — in the multi-billions of dollars,” Greene said. “The question is whether shareholders will tolerate spending five to 10 billion dollars more to compete with Azure and AWS. IBM was a lot more aggressive about being a public-cloud provider three to four years ago, and I don’t hear them making the case for that too much anymore.”

Nick Wingfield, technology correspondent for The New York Times, pointed out that Microsoft’s enterprise experience is a strong draw for some corporate customers. “A high-tech exec I know switched his company from AWS to Azure, partly because of the brands,” he said. “I thought that after 10-plus years, Amazon would be the gold standard, but in the government and the enterprise worlds, Microsoft is strong, and to be on its cloud is very comforting.”

At the summit, innovators, entrepreneurs, business executives and tech leaders have come together for two days to explore the future of the innovation economy.

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