In the wake of a controversial Apple job-creation claim, Microsoft has issued a related claim of its own: The software giant says that its cloud computing efforts will directly result in the creation of nearly 14 million new jobs worldwide by 2015.
"The cloud is going to have a huge impact on job creation," says Microsoft Corporate Vice President Susan Hauser. "It's a transformative technology that will drive down costs, spur innovation, and open up new jobs and skill sets across the globe."
Microsoft's claim, which is based on an IDC research paper that was commissioned by the software giant, comes at an interesting time. The firm is currently basking in the glow of amazingly positive reviews of the Consumer Preview version of Windows 8, its next traditional computer OS, a type of product whose decline could accelerate because of cloud computing. And Microsoft's premier cloud computing service, Windows Azure, was last week brought to its knees because of an embarrassing date bug related to the February 29 Leap Day.
Too, Apple recently claimed that it had "created or supported” 514,000 jobs in the United States alone since unleashing its popular iPhone and iPad products. Most of those jobs are related to app creation, and Apple also not coincidentally celebrated the 25 billionth app download (not "sale," as most were free) at its App Store, which services iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch users.
Apple's claims have been met with much skepticism by economists, and the claims were clearly released as an implicit response to criticisms that the company's heady profits and margins are a direct result of its manufacturing all of its products in Chinese factories that routinely abuse the rights of their workers. Apple has done little to prevent this abuse despite being aware of these practices for years and maintaining a squeaky-clean image in which it is paradoxically the country's most admired company. This despite outsourcing 100 percent of its manufacturing jobs to what is nearly slave labor.
But back to Microsoft, whose own claims should be held to the same level of skepticism, given the timing.
Microsoft's IDC-backed claim is based on what it calls "spending on public and private IT cloud services," which it says could reach $1.1 trillion per year in new business revenues. And in addition to the aforementioned coincidental events, this claim also comes during a US presidential election year, during a time in which job creation is likely to be a core topic for voters.
According to the study, which you can download in PDF format from Microsoft's website, one third of cloud-enabled jobs will occur in the communications and media (2.4 million new jobs), banking (1.4 million), and discrete manufacturing (1.3 million) industries, and China and India will account for about half of all new cloud-related jobs.
"We tend to think of China and India as emerging markets, but they're actually early adopters of the cloud," IDC Senior Vice President John Gantz says. "They're not bound to existing systems. They've skipped that step, so there's less holding them back."
Likewise, roughly half of all the new jobs created worldwide will occur in smaller businesses, suggesting that the benefits will be fairly equally distributed. In fact, IDC expects small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs) to adopt cloud services faster than larger companies, and for the same reasons that China and India will surge during this time: These smaller businesses aren't being held back by widely deployed legacy computing systems.
Looking at just the United States—which provides an interesting comparison to Apple's claims—IDC sees 1.2 million new cloud-related jobs created over the next two to two and a half years. The United States accounted for 62 percent of cloud-related spending over the past year as well.
Widely known as a computing powerhouse, Microsoft has been mischaracterized by many as being a laggard in new markets. But Microsoft has surged ahead with cloud computing initiatives that encompass both Windows Azure and SQL Azure, the Windows Live and MSN services that include Hotmail, Office 365 productivity, Windows Intune management, and more. If anything, Microsoft seems to be diversifying at a fairly impressive rate.
And although those numbers and the timing of this announcement will, of course, always be suspect, it's in the broad strokes that we will find some truth. Hauser's comments about the cloud being "a transformative technology" is of course as accurate as you can get.