Microsoft expands its mobile and cloud services push in Hong Kong

US software giant opens expanded Cyberport office

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 March, 2016, 8:44pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 March, 2016, 9:30pm

Software giant Microsoft is plotting to make strategic new investments in Hong Kong as it marks 25 years of doing business in the city this month.

These initiatives would support the way organisations in Hong Kong pursue their so-called digital transformation, a process that Microsoft has also undertaken over the past few years, senior executives told the South China Morning Post.

“We have moved to become a cloud-first and mobile-first company,” Microsoft Greater China chairman and chief executive Ralph Haupter said, referring to the company’s adoption of technologies that it used to compete against.

“Many companies are asking how we can help them on their own transformation [to become more efficient] and which solutions to use,” he said.

That has led United States-based Microsoft to open a new office at Cyberport this week that promotes increased collaboration between its staff, as well as with corporate customers and partners.

Further investments will likely be made in strengthening Microsoft’s local data centre operations, which currently comprise two facilities that support users of its Azure cloud computing platform.

Cloud computing enables companies to buy, sell, lease or distribute online a range of software and other digital resources as an on-demand service, just like electricity from a power grid. These resources are kept and managed inside internet-linked data centres.

Microsoft last year teamed up with HKT, Hong Kong’s biggest telecommunications network operator, to accelerate adoption of the cloud version of its popular Office software among the city’s more than 300,000 small- and medium-sized enterprises.

That is a far cry from the days when Microsoft sold physical discs containing its software to businesses and consumers in Hong Kong.

Horace Chow Chok-kee, general manager at Microsoft Hong Kong, predicted that more than 40 per cent of the company’s revenue in the city will come from cloud services.

Technology research firm IDC has forecast total spending on cloud services in Hong Kong will reach US$685 million (HK$5.32 billion) by 2017, up from an estimated US$251 million in 2013.

Chow said a new “Experience Centre” has also been launched inside the company’s premises at Cyberport, which “creates an environment to foster breakthroughs that matter to our employees, our partners and our customers”.

The company currently has 1,400 partners, including resellers and systems integrators, in Hong Kong. About 660 of those are cloud partners.

Chow said Microsoft will continue with its BizSpark programme, which is providing technical support to more than 400 technology start-ups in Hong Kong, and its outreach effort in the education sector, where there are 60,000 users of its free cloud services.

“In the past decade, we have donated HK$225 million in software through different community initiatives,” he said.

According to Haupter, Microsoft will also study how it can push forward new programmes that would complement the Hong Kong government’s efforts to help innovative entrepreneurs and start-ups.

The city’s technology sector is in for a HK$17 billion-plus boost as part of spending initiatives announced by financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah last month.

Financial technology has been highlighted as a potential growth area for the city based on its longstanding reputation as a financial services hub, although critics have said regulations are slow to adapt to new technology and business models.