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Is Azure the cloud for the internet of things? Microsoft doubles down at Build

Microsoft’s rebranding of the internet of things as “the intelligent edge” is arguably an improvement over the original moniker, but it will take more than a clever name to capture this market opportunity. The company plans to make a concerted pitch to IoT developers that it operates the best cloud for their code later on Monday at Build 2018.

Several IoT-related announcements are on tap for the joint keynote Monday morning led by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Executive Vice President Scott Guthrie, head of Microsoft’s newly remade Cloud + AI group. They build on a narrative constructed last year at Build by Nadella around edge computing, the notion that we’re in the midst of a shift back to decentralized computing after a consolidation around the centralized cloud over the last decade or so.

In the latest chapter of The New Microsoft, a company unrecognizable to anyone who stopped following tech as recently as 2012, Nadella plans to announce that the company will release its Azure IoT Edge runtime as an open-source project. This should give Azure IoT Edge users more flexibility to tailor the runtime — the actual execution of a software program — to their own needs while still using Azure for the higher-level services.

I will say that Microsoft has been far ahead of other major cloud vendors for IoT. Now with the open sourcing of Azure IoT Edge it provides confidence for folks wanting to use Azure IoT Edge. Smart. #MSBuild

— Stacey Higginbotham (@gigastacey) May 7, 2018

Microsoft has also struck partnership deals with two prominent IoT companies. It plans to release a software development kit with mobile chipmaker Qualcomm designed for camera-dependent applications that taps into Azure’s machine-learning services, and it will fly a bunch of drones around the Washington State Convention Center to highlight a new partnership with DJI that draws on Azure services.

There is more momentum around the industrial internet of things in 2018 than ever before, as real-world applications like connected farms and smart buildings become mainstream thanks to cheap sensors and fast wireless connectivity. That activity should accelerate as 5G networks finally come online over the next few years, and the limitations of the speed of light are dictating that more and more processing power will move out of the data center and toward devices at the edge of the network.

This activity will generate enormous amounts of data, much of it very personal. That might be why Microsoft spent a ton of time Monday talking about its commitment to data privacy, because as developers start putting cameras and sensors in nearly everything we encounter in our day to day lives, the privacy concerns presented by social media companies will seem quaint.

Follow our live blog for real-time coverage from Build.

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