There's a battle being waged in the cloud. And while this may seem like the plot of a latter-day Anne Rice novel, pitting comely angels against even comelier demons in heaven, it's actually happening in board rooms and technology development hubs.
Most importantly, it means big business ... and big profits for investors.
Two of the main players in the battle for the cloud -- that is, the remote network of internet servers that store, manage and process data -- are Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) Report and Salesforce (CRM) - Get salesforce.com, inc. Report . And one of the biggest applications for the cloud is for managing business/customer relationships. That's called "customer relationship management," or "CRM" for short.
Until recently, HP employed Salesforce to take care of all its CRM needs and was one of the cloud company's largest clients. The two businesses formed such a symbiotic relationship that HP used Salesforce software on HP computer hardware in Salesforce's own headquarters. They called this entanglement the "Superpod" and even made the configuration available for sale to other companies.
Then HP split, spinning off its corporate hardware and services businesses into a new entity, Hewlett Packard Enterprises, during the second half of last year.
That left HP free to hire whatever company it pleased to handle CRM. And it has now hired Microsoft.
Microsoft has been in fierce competition with Salesforce ever since the tech juggernaut failed to acquire the cloud company last year. This has led to all-out war, with Microsoft snatching up social media platform LinkedIn from under Salesforce's nose, and Salesforce purchasing Quip, a competitor to Microsoft's Office suite.
The Microsoft/HP deal strikes a major blow to Salesforce. And it helps propel Microsoft's own cloud business into... well... the clouds.
Microsoft recently overtook Salesforce as the leader in the overall software-as-a-service (SaaS) market, according to eWeek, which cited data from Synergy Research Group. That means big profits in an industry that grew at a year-over-year rate of 33% in the second quarter of the year. For the quarter, the worldwide SaaS market generated revenue of more than $11 billion, eWeek also reported.
And now Microsoft will be the leader in that revenue, beating out not only Salesforce but also Cisco, Adobe and Oracle.
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In fact, it's Microsoft's forays into the cloud that will continue to generate its profit growth as things like traditional software and computer hardware sales fall by the wayside. The company has made big investments -- as much as $10 billion on a data center for the development of its Azure cloud system. And these investments are going to pay off as the cloud continues to redefine how the world does business and stores its data.
With the big coup of the new deal with HP, Microsoft should continue to expand and take over in this space. Look for dips in stock price to grab shares of and profit from this technology juggernaut.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.