Walmart has found itself a fairy godparent in Microsoft. The two companies have teamed up to "further accelerate Walmart's digital transformation in retail," and Microsoft chief Satya Nadella told The Wall Street Journal that their shared rivalry against Amazon is "absolutely core" to their partnership. Over the next five years, the retail giant will expand its use of Microsoft's cloud solutions, including Redmond's Amazon Web Services competitor Azure. While their announcement didn't specifically mention it, a Reuters report in June said Microsoft is developing a cashier-less technology powered by Azure that works just like Amazon Go. The report also said that the tech giant is already in talks with Walmart to take the tech for a spin.
If you'll recall, Amazon Go is the company's take on what a convenience store of the future is. Amazon opened its first location at the base of its headquarters in Seattle a few months ago and plans to open six more stores across the US within this year. When you shop in a Go store, you simply need to scan in with an app to purchase what you need. Amazon's algorithms will keep track of the goods you grab inside the store and will automatically charge your payment method on file when you walk out. Whether this partnership will actually lead to Go-like stores remains to be seen. Walmart has been trialing a cashier-less shop since late last year, though, showing that it's ready to put up a fight.
The partners' announcement mentioned specific projects they expect to accomplish under the agreement even if they never come up with a store to rival Amazon Go. Walmart will migrate some of its apps and significant portions of websites to Azure to enhance its online shopping experience. In addition, the retail giant will build a global Internet of Things platform on Azure to route thousands of trucks in its supply chain, as well as to optimize its HVAC and refrigerator units' performance to save energy. Microsoft will also help Walmart use all its customer and product data to its advantage, hopefully in ways that don't invade people's privacy.