Microsoft And Sony Form Surprising Cloud Gaming And Azure AI Strategic Partnership

Well, we can't say that we saw this one coming. Two bitter rivals in the console gaming market have announced the formation of a new partnership that will see Sony and Microsoft collaborating on "direct-to-consumer entertainment platforms and AI solutions."

sony microsoft ceos
Sony's Kenichiro Yoshida and Microsoft's Satya Nadella

At the center of this new tie-up between the gaming powerhouses is Microsoft's Azure datacenter solution. Microsoft already uses Azure for the backend of its own streaming Xbox-relating gaming services, but Sony is looking to tap into Azure to power its own game streaming and content streaming services for the PlayStation platform. Microsoft's own xCloud gaming service will launch on a trial basis later this year if all goes according to plan.

On the AI front, a combination of Sony's highly regarded image sensors will be used in conjunction with Azure AI technology to create a new class of "intelligent image sensor solutions."

Project xCloud
Microsoft's Project xCloud game streaming service

“Sony has always been a leader in both entertainment and technology, and the collaboration we announced today builds on this history of innovation,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “Our partnership brings the power of Azure and Azure AI to Sony to deliver new gaming and entertainment experiences for customers.”

"I believe that our joint development of future cloud solutions will contribute greatly to the advancement of interactive content," added Sony President and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida.

The partnership between the two companies with Azure AI and image sensors isn't too terribly surprising; that's a natural fit for Microsoft and Sony. However, the cloud gaming angle definitely adds a new wrinkle to the gaming equation -- especially considering that Amazon is looking to make a play in this market and is major competitor to Microsoft in the cloud services realm.

In addition, the Microsoft-Sony gaming partnership is also a shot across the bow of Google, which is prepping its Stadia game streaming service that will work across multiple platforms. Stadia will offer 4K60 game streaming when initially launched, and has the ability to scale to 8K120 in the future according to Google.