GE and Microsoft are getting more serious

General Electric Co. (GE) and Microsoft have been strengthening their Internet of Things (IoT) partnership for at least a year, and a July 16 announcement documents a new, closer stage in their relationship. TBR believes this partnership benefits both parties. GE makes its Predix IoT platform more attractive to the growing number of customers standardizing on Microsoft Azure for cloud services. Microsoft improves its industrial IoT (IIoT) and operational technology (OT) credentials, as well as its ability to go to market in the IoT world where the collaboration of IT and OT create challenges for IT companies.

GE and Microsoft announced their “largest partnership to date,” according to a Microsoft press release, with GE standardizing its Predix solutions on Azure, and both companies integrating the Predix portfolio with Azure’s capabilities, including Azure IoT and Azure Data and Analytics. The companies will also co-sell and go to market together. GE will deploy Azure across its business for additional IT workloads. This latest partnership builds on last year’s announcements in July and October of closer cooperation between the two companies.

GE first introduced Predix in August 2015 as an end-to-end cloud IIoT solution. While the Predix cloud was interoperable with other cloud platforms, the emphasis was on a complete solution. Following a large investment and marketing effort, it became clear that competing directly with general-purpose cloud platforms was both unnecessary and counterproductive. Providing a complete platform wasted GE resources and placed the company in direct competition with huge cloud vendors. In 2017 GE adopted a strategy of focusing on its differentiated capabilities and highlighting Predix’s interoperability. The July 16 announcement makes GE’s relationship with Microsoft much stronger than its partnerships with other vendors.

While the newly announced partnership helps GE, the future is not clear for GE Digital, the division that offers Predix. In November 2017 the company announced cuts of more than 25%, about $400 million, within GE Digital. Predix development is increasingly focused on GE’s primary businesses — aviation, power and renewable energy — but as of April, a company spokesperson said only 8% of GE’s industrial customers were customers of GE Digital. TBR believes that a sale of GE Digital to Microsoft is likely, as GE narrows its focus and Microsoft expands its footprint in IoT and IIoT.

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