Microsoft has announced that it will be expanding its Azure cloud computing platform into a yet unexplored industry: legalised marijuana. The technology giant isn’t going to be directly selling weed just yet; but will instead be partnering with Los Angeles startup Kind that offers a range of marijuana based products.
Redmond’s part in this will be working with Kind’s “government solutions” division. It will be offering software that will allow Kind’s partners to track marijuana from “seed to sale”, allowing them to remain on the right side of the law.
Some 25 US states have already legalised marijuana for either medicinal or recreational use, with five more states preparing to vote on the matter this year. Despite this, banks and corporations still view the fledgling industry as taboo. Only a handful of state related banks are willing to deal with marijuana sellers, while most technology giants still wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole.
Microsoft’s willingness to break corporate taboo and engage with the industry comes as the company looks to diversify its business. Microsoft had earlier announced the purchase of LinkedIn to accelerate the growth of its Office 365 platform.
While marijuana might not be in the same league as LinkedIn, the industry is expected to produce some $6.5 billion (about RM27 billion) in sales this year. That number is expected to climb to $25 billion (about RM101 billion) by the year 2020; if the state of California approves the motion to legalise weed.
This may not be a business that most traditional companies would be looking into when talking about diversification, but it may benefit Microsoft in the long run.
[Source: The New York Times]