Bitcoin, and the idea of digital cash, has taken hold of the banking sector as banks and financial institutions start to experiment internally with blockchains and cryptocurrencies in order to be at the forefront of these technologies.
This, coupled with the fact that government organisations and even global leadership bodies such as the G20 are looking to regulate cryptocurrencies, again give more legitimacy and longevity to the industry.
The latest wave of adoption is now coming from corporations who, traditionally have come to be successful thanks to their centralized domination over different aspects of the market. Microsoft, in the world of computing, are legendary in driving the world to be digital; then there is Amazon, the pioneers of e-commerce.
These companies are in some manner getting forced towards blockchain technology as it has become apparent that this is the future, and even though it goes against their centralized values, they simply cannot miss out.
Microsoft has always been one of the biggest companies to give Bitcoin its dues. Back in Dec. 2014, content on the Windows and Xbox stores could be bought in Bitcoin, and this was at a time where Bitcoin’s mainstream adoption and appeal was minimal.
This of course was merely a nod towards alternative payment methods, and Microsoft being flexible to its customers wants and needs. However since then, and since blockchain has grown, Microsoft has been pushing to be in front of the innovative queue.
Microsoft has obviously identified the power of blockchain and its far reaching potential for disruptive applications in the world of enterprise business. The company is now developing blockchain applications - which are not that flashy as some of the solutions put forward by startups, but equally practical.
Microsoft is also looking to build platforms on which businesses can grow their blockchain applications upon, such as the Confidential Consortium (Coco) Framework, an Ethereum-based protocol, which falls under Microsoft Azure, the company’s cloud computing arm.
They have also announced that they are looking into plans to integrate blockchain-based decentralized IDs (DIDs) into its Microsoft Authenticator app.
The latest from the computing giant is that Azure has released its blockchain app creation service, Azure Blockchain Workbench, on May 7. Workbench aims to allow businesses looking to create bespoke blockchain apps to speed up the development process by automating infrastructure setup.
Amazon’s own efforts
Both Microsoft and Amazon have similar origins with their founders - Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos - being driven men with revolutionary ideas. Therefore it is unsurprising to see these two companies pushing to be on the forefront of a new technological wave.
Gates may be spouting some pretty negative things about Bitcoin, and Bezos may be under siege to accept the digital currency on Amazon, but despite what the two founders think of the cryptocurrency space, it is becoming clear that the future is conquering the companies.
Amazon revolutionized the e-commerce space, and is looking to at least be near to top of the pecking order when blockchain technology truly takes a hold. Just like in banking, there is a rush to get blockchain figured out and usable before the rest of the competition gets to market.
Amazon are already in a battle with IBM and Oracle with its own “blockchain-as-a-service” offering. The blockchain framework for Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric, which is allowing users to build and manage their own Blockchain-powered decentralized applications, is being developed in different forms by all three.
Essentially, users would be able to create their own blockchain applications via the Amazon Web Services (AWS) CloudFormation Templates tool to avoid time-consuming manual setups of their blockchain network.
Oracle and others also entering the space
Oracle, the world’s second-largest software company, also recently unveiled blockchain products, and will be releasing them over the next two months. Again, it was a similar cloud service built on the open-source Hyperledger Fabric project like Microsoft, and equally similar to IBM’s blockchain service, announced a year ago.
Major companies are also jumping on the blockchain bandwagon in different easy, shapes and forms. Huawei is loading its phones with a built-in Bitcoin wallet; Samsung revealed that it will use blockchain for managing its global supply chain; Spanish banking group BBVA became the first global bank to issue a loan on a blockchain, and use-cases continue to grow around the world.
Why the blockchain drive?
It was not long ago that people were calling Bitcoin a fad, a scam, and something that will not last for long. Those voices have been silenced somewhat as even banks, one of the biggest detractors of cryptocurrencies, are realising that they need to be on the forefront of this emerging technology.
The excitement is spreading, and it is creating an arms race even outside banks and the finance sector. Blockchain technology, while intrinsically attached to cryptocurrencies, also has many applications for other sectors. These applications are being explored, and evaluated.
Companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Samsung, Huawei and others, all realize that with all these possibilities, it would be blind to not dive in, and quick.
AWS vice president Jeff Barr explained in a post:
“Some of the people that I talk to see blockchains as the foundation of a new monetary system and a way to facilitate international payments. Others see blockchains as a distributed ledger and immutable data source that can be applied to logistics, supply chain, land registration, crowdfunding and other use cases,. Either way, it’s clear that there are a lot of intriguing possibilities and we are working to help our customers use this technology more effectively.”
Neil Patel, advisor to Kind Ads, a decentralized ad-network that consults companies such as Amazon and Microsoft, reiterates that these major corporations almost have no choice but to embrace blockchain technology as it is being regarded quite openly as the future of technology. Patel told Cointelegraph:
"Microsoft and Amazon have no choice but to focus on blockchain because it is the future. If they don't, they know that it will hurt their growth in the cloud computing space. Just look at Facebook, they see the value in blockchain so much that they moved around their executive team to put the ex president of PayPal on blockchain projects."
Patel’s example above makes mention of how David Marcus, the former president of PayPal and the Facebook executive who has been running the company’s Messenger app, is now assembling a team to explore blockchain technology for the social media platform.
Bitcoin, blockchain and cryptocurrencies in general all continue to split opinions. However, the voices in the detracting camps are becoming quieter, especially if they are just single voices.
Jamie Dimon, the head of JP Morgan, called Bitcoin a fraud and spouted much vitriol about cryptocurrencies - and yet, JP Morgan is building its own blockchain, Quorum. The Head of Microsoft is in a similar situation as he says he would bet on Bitcoin collapsing while his company pushes to be a blockchain leader.
Many of these older viewpoints about how things were done, the centralized control of a sector and the move to monopolize a service, still reside in the likes of Gates and Dimon, but on the company floor, it is a different story.
Blockchain technology is being touted as the future, and it is not just empty words. The amount of money, time and effort being put into blockchain-based research and development by banks and corporations prove there is something more to it than a passing fad.