The blockchain technology race has just opened a new front, this time with a potentially significant joint project in the tech sector.
Microsoft has joined forces with Consensys, a Brooklyn-based startup that is building tools based on Ethereum, to allow clients of its Azure service to experiment with new applications.
Azure is Microsoft’s cloud-based business service, which supports multiple programming languages and provides for the creation of custom applications on Microsoft’s infrastructure.
Azure users would utilize the Ethereum tools to build applications, either to enhance their own business operations or for offering to their own clientele. Potential examples include securities trading, cross-border payments and corporate accounting.
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Ethereum, one of the most anticipated Bitcoin 2.0 technologies- or Bitcoin 3.0 according to some accounts- officially launched three months ago. It is touted by its creators with the sentence: “What bitcoin does for payments, Ethereum does for anything that can be programmed.”
Until now, many of the headlines in the growing blockchain tech space have been of major financial institutions, sometimes in combination with a crypto-oriented startup. Tech giants have kept mostly out of the picture, the major exceptions being IBM and Samsung, who are working on a joint Internet of Things (IoT) project that incorporates the blockchain as well as Ethereum.
Microsoft became the world’s largest company to accept bitcoin late last year through a BitPay integration. In most cases, companies accepting bitcoin for payment have it converted immediately to fiat and deposited into the merchant’s account. Thus, such integrations are often pragmatically undertaken to reduce the costs of transacting, or perhaps for experimentation. They do not necessarily convey a demonstrable commitment to Bitcoin or its technology.
However, Microsoft has weighed in on the potential benefits of digital currency and its technology on a number of occasions, hinting at possible involvement. It reportedly observed a huge appetite for blockchain-based development tools from its customers. Ethereum, touted for being Turing complete, was found appealing for the Azure business because of its flexibility.
The announcement comes during good times at Microsoft, whose shares (NASDAQ:MSFT) recently soared to their highest level since the dot-com boom and bust 16 years ago after smashing earnings expectations. The company, now worth $429 billion, is the third most valuable in the US.