Microsoft Turns Up Heat on Amazon with Express Logic Acquisition


Microsoft is making a major move for dominance in the growing internet of things market against sector leader Amazon with its acquisitionOpens a new window of Express Logic, the San Diego-based software maker whose simple operating system connects billions of everyday devices to the internet.

The value of the internet of things market worldwide is mind boggling. Gartner estimatesOpens a new window that 20 billion objects, excluding smartphones, tablets and PCs, will connect to the internet by 2020, and the value of the market is anticipated by some analysts to exceed $1 trillion by 2022.

Express Logic, founded in 1996, builds what is known as a real-time operating system or RTOSOpens a new window . It’s an operating system for computing devices such as timers, remote controls, and cooktops in the growing internet of things market. A real-time operating system is distinct from a more complex system like the Windows 10 version for internet-connected devices because the RTOS manages code only for limited tasks.

Express Logic says its  ThreadX real-time operating system has been installed in 6.2 billion devices. Using  just 2kb of memory, ThreadX runs on microcontrollers, which control microprocessors, chips programmed for a single purpose.

The internet of things (IoT) relies on microprocessors to connect to the internet. Many connected objects send data to the cloud for processing, though some businesses are believed to use their on-premise data centers for storing sensitive data due to security concerns.

Microsoft has built a significant internet of things platform using its Azure cloud system. With the purchase of Express Logic, Microsoft extends its Azure platform to billions more objects through the ThreadX system and will allow Thread X devices to communicate with Azure devices.

“With this acquisition, we will unlock access to billions of new connected endpoints, grow the number of devices that can seamlessly connect to Azure and enable new intelligent capabilities,” Sam George, director of Azure’s IoT platform wrote in a blog postOpens a new window .

The expansion of Azure will help Microsoft grab a larger share of the industrial internet of things market, which includes complex devices ranging from washing machines to jet engines.

Amazon’s AWS internet of things platform now commands the largest share of the entire market with 34%, against 23% for Azure and 20% for Google’s Cloud Platform, according to researchOpens a new window from the news outlet. This reflects wider cloud market share.

In April 2018, Microsoft announced it would invest $5 billion over the next four years in the internet of things and intelligent edge market, and so far has backed innovations such as Azure Sphere, a secure IoT operating system, and partnerships with the likes of SAP and Qualcomm.

Some analysts have wondered what would happen to Azure Sphere after the Express Logic deal since ThreadX crosses over with its functions. But Azure’s George says the two operating systems are complementary. Sphere is recommended for highly secure IoT connections to the cloud while ThreadX is suitable for lightweight or “constrained” devices that do not possess sufficient computing power to support high-level security.

This deal marks another significant step on the road to the “everywhere internet.”

In 2017, Amazon took control of FreeRTOS, another large real-time operating system. Microsoft, on the other hand, can provide operating systems for devices ranging from PCs and servers to microcontrollers locally and in the cloud. With its broad range of operating systems options, Microsoft is aiming to assume a role as a more encompassing internet of things provider.

Now, the trillion-dollar race among the tech giants for the internet of things market is expected to grow tighter as a hyper-connected world looms just over the horizon.