In a surprise move, Microsoft and Sony have partnered to work on cloud-based solutions for gaming and content streaming, as well as artificial intelligence-based technology.
Specifically, the companies will work together to use Microsoft’s extensive Azure cloud computing network to support both current and future respective game and content streaming services.
Additionally, Microsoft and Sony will collaborate on semiconductors and AI. In terms of semiconductors, the pair will explore the development of new intelligent image sensor solutions using Sony’s cutting-edge image sensors and Microsoft’s Azure AI technology.
For AI, meanwhile, the parties will look into incorporating Microsoft’s advanced AI platform and tools in Sony’s lineup of consumer products to “provide highly intuitive and user-friendly AI experiences.”
While it’s unclear exactly what will come out of this partnership, it’s nonetheless a remarkable business move given the long-running competition between both companies.
In the gaming space, Sony’s PlayStation division and Microsoft’s Xbox branch are two of the three major console players alongside Nintendo. As such, Sony has traditionally been unwilling to work with the competition, instead opting to focus on its own products and services.
For example, Sony drew significant criticism over the past two years for its refusal to support cross-play gaming across PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. This was in spite of the fact that Microsoft and Nintendo supported cross-play in popular games like Fortnite, Minecraft and Rocket League.
While Sony eventually caved in September 2018 by enabling cross-play on PS4, the company came under fire from developers in the following months for seemingly “playing favourites” with games it supported.
By contrast, Microsoft and Nintendo have demonstrated an openness to work with other companies on cross-play and other initiatives, such as bringing former Canadian-made Xbox One console exclusive Cuphead to the Switch.
As mentioned, Sony and Microsoft also have their respective streaming services. PlayStation Now has been available since January 2014, allowing users to stream PS4, PS3 and PS2 games to either PlayStation 4 or PC.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is working on its mysterious Project xCloud service, which aims to stream console-quality gaming experiences to all kinds of devices, including smartphones and tablets.
Therefore, it’s particularly noteworthy to see the two companies planning to help each other work on these services.
“For many years, Microsoft has been a key business partner for us, though of course the two companies have also been competing in some areas. I believe that our joint development of future cloud solutions will contribute greatly to the advancement of interactive content,” said Kenichiro Yoshida, president and CEO of Sony, in a press statement.
“Sony has always been a leader in both entertainment and technology, and the collaboration we announced today builds on this history of innovation,” added Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. “Our partnership brings the power of Azure and Azure AI to Sony to deliver new gaming and entertainment experiences for customers.”
The companies say they’ll share more information on the partnership in the future.