In Australia, CRN has a story about how Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella views his company’s recently announced deals with retailers that include Kroger, Albertsons and Walgreen.,

"It's clear that [Microsoft has] fantastic alignment of our business model with the interests of our customers. In other words, we want to make sure we are, in fact, making our customers fully capable digital companies in their own right - whether they're in retail, whether they're in oil and gas, whether they're in health care. Because that's really what's in our long-term interest," Nadella said during an analysts conference call.

Nadella went on: “And, of course, that means we have a trusted relationship, which is a competitive advantage … In a world where some of our competitors have more complex business models - where in some cases they give their platforms [to customers] and other cases where they compete with them or tax them—that's definitely something that I'm sure our customers pay attention to.”

The CRN story suggests that Nadella’s comment amount to more than a hint that “Amazon's push into new industries such as groceries and health care could be leading some customers to choose (Microsoft’s) Azure over Amazon Web Services.” While Nadella didn't mention Amazon by name, “Amazon has expanded its business into new verticals in recent years including groceries, with the acquisition of Whole Foods, and health care, with acquisitions such as prescription delivery service PillPack. Meanwhile, Amazon Web Services is the market-share leader in public cloud infrastructure and the only larger public cloud than Azure.”

The story notes that “for Microsoft's second quarter of fiscal 2019, ended 31 December, intelligent cloud revenue jumped 20.4 percent to US$9.38 billion, up from US$7.79 billion the year before. The growth was fueled by a 76-percent spike in Azure revenue, while enterprise services rose 6 percent.”

KC's View: This is what you call a multi-front war, with a lot of partnerships and deals being formed to do battle with Amazon, which has totally roiled the competitive waters with so many of its moves.

Where this stuff really will move the retail business forward is when these alliances focus relentlessly on the customer - and this is only going to happen, as my friend and MNB contributor Tom Furphy likes to say, when these businesses get outside their comfort zones and do things that really make them uneasy. Partnering with Microsoft is a good way to do that.