Depending on the day, Amazon and Microsoft are the two most valuable companies in the U.S., and a big part of that is their dominance over the lucrative cloud computing market.
As cloud computing grows, Microsoft and Amazon, and by extension their home region of Seattle are positioned to reap the benefits. Charles Fitzgerald, an angel investor who spent 20 years at Microsoft, said at the 2019 GeekWire Cloud Summit that Seattle is the “platform capital of the world,” and its influence on the cloud means the majority of the internet is making the region’s top companies richer.
“Cloud looks like the definitive technology platform of the next decade or longer,” Fitzgerald said. “And guess what, we are your landlord; your monthly rent check comes to Seattle every month.”
Amazon is the clear leader in cloud computing, commanding a 32 percent market share as of the end of last year, per a recent study from Canalys. Microsoft is growing its presence, though it still trails Amazon by a wide margin, with a 16 percent market share.
Amazon Web Services reported $7.7 billion in revenue in the first quarter, up 41 percent compared to the same period last year. Operating income was $2.2 billion, up 55 percent over the year-ago quarter.
Microsoft doesn’t break out revenue from sales of its Azure cloud computing services, making an apple-to-apples comparison with Amazon a challenge. Microsoft’s Intelligent Cloud division, which includes sales of Azure, Windows Server, and Enterprise Services, finished the first quarter with revenue of $9.7 billion, a 22 percent improvement compared to the same quarter last year. That division remains the fastest growing part of Microsoft overall.
The cloud computing revolution has come to define Seattle’s tech scene, and it’s also created some contrast with San Francisco, where many of the biggest consumer apps are made. Fitzgerald and a panel of VC investors said tech workers in Seattle tend to stay in their jobs longer.
In the startup scene, Madrona Venture Group’s Sudip Chakrabarti described two types of founders: Mercenaries and missionaries. In Seattle, founders tend to be more mission-driven, the panelists said.
“In Seattle we see more missionaries where people are giving up a really cushy Amazon job and have the courage to do that,” said Chakrabarti, who recently relocated from the Bay Area. “We need to see more of that. My fear is we are already starting to see more of that mercenary mindset.”