In a bit of a plot twist, Microsoft and Sony have signed a strategic partnership that includes the use of Azure, AI solutions, and more.
As per the agreement, the signing parties will be involved in "joint development of future cloud solutions in Microsoft Azure", solutions which are meant to be used in both game and content streaming scenarios. Furthermore, Sony in particular will "explore the use of current Microsoft Azure datacenter-based solutions" for its own streaming offers.
The above is a very interesting bit of information in light of Sony's PlayStation Now game streaming service, and Microsoft's upcoming Project xCloud. Adding to this, the two companies are very much competing in the console market, with Redmond's codename Scarlett lineup and the PlayStation 5 expected to launch next year. Kenichiro Yoshida, president and CEO of Sony stated:
“Sony is a creative entertainment company with a solid foundation of technology. We collaborate closely with a multitude of content creators that capture the imagination of people around the world, and through our cutting-edge technology, we provide the tools to bring their dreams and vision to reality,”
“PlayStation® itself came about through the integration of creativity and technology. Our mission is to seamlessly evolve this platform as one that continues to deliver the best and most immersive entertainment experiences, together with a cloud environment that ensures the best possible experience, anytime, anywhere. For many years, Microsoft has been a key business partner for us, though of course the two companies have also been competing in some areas. I believe that our joint development of future cloud solutions will contribute greatly to the advancement of interactive content. Additionally, I hope that in the areas of semiconductors and AI, leveraging each company’s cutting-edge technology in a mutually complementary way will lead to the creation of new value for society.”
In a slightly more brief statement, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said this:
“Sony has always been a leader in both entertainment and technology, and the collaboration we announced today builds on this history of innovation,”
“Our partnership brings the power of Azure and Azure AI to Sony to deliver new gaming and entertainment experiences for customers.”
Covered under this agreement are also semiconductors, with the potential collaboration between the two tech giants yielding "new intelligent image sensor solutions". This is a point of interest due to Microsoft's Kinect sensor - and more recently Azure Kinect device -, and Sony's PS Move and PS Camera accessories.
The collaboration on semiconductors will also be enhanced by AI, with Microsoft's artificial intelligence offerings in the cloud being leveraged to "provide enhanced capabilities for enterprise customers". Additionally, these same AI capabilities could be potentially integrated into Sony's consumer products with the aim being to provide "highly intuitive and user-friendly AI experiences".
Naturally, the partnership also seeks to build better development platforms for content creators, although exactly what steps will be taken in this regard is unclear.
With Sony absent from this year's E3, and Microsoft's Xbox Briefing less than a month away, the timing of this announcement is somewhat surprising. Nevertheless, Xbox head Phil Spencer has promised to respond to Google during E3 2019 - referencing the Mountain View firm's Stadia game streaming service -, so it's possible this partnership is part of that response.