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The centre, like dozens of similar ones around the world, is a showroom for Microsoft’s enterprise services. (PETER POWER/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
The centre, like dozens of similar ones around the world, is a showroom for Microsoft’s enterprise services. (PETER POWER/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

COMPUTING

Microsoft’s new technology centre attempts to show and sell Add to ...

Microsoft Corp. has opened a new technology centre – the first of its kind in Canada – as part of a bid to convince its business customers to embrace the cloud.

The company unveiled its first Canadian “Microsoft Technology Centre” at an event at its Mississauga office on Wednesday. The centre, like dozens of similar ones around the world, is a showroom for Microsoft’s enterprise services. The MTC also serves as a resource for corporate clients looking to use Microsoft services to solve various technology problems. Instead of sending sales agents or engineers to the client, Microsoft brings the client to the MTC.

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“You don’t have that sense of collaboration and world-class expertise when you’re in the field, as opposed to coming here,” said Ross Mistry, director of technology centres at Microsoft Canada Co.

For Microsoft, the MTCs offer a controlled environment similar to the company’s retail stores, where customers are surrounded with a sampling of the company’s latest technology. It mimics a trend among the largest technology companies – including Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. – to control as much of the customer experience as possible through company-branded stores, conferences and support services. Indeed, the MTC’s primary function is to connect customers and Microsoft product specialists, who are able to show off (and try to sell) the company’s latest technology.

Located within Microsoft’s sprawling offices, about 35 kilometres west of Toronto, the MTC features many of the company’s most visually impressive products, such as the Surface tabletop computer and myriad other touchscreen devices. Almost all those devices run Windows 8, the latest iteration of the popular operating system; Microsoft is pushing its corporate clients to upgrade to the new software, even though many businesses only recently upgraded to the previous one.

The MTC program has also proved surprisingly beneficial to Microsoft in other ways. Some startups that used the facility were subsequently acquired by the company.

But the primary focus of Microsoft’s technology centres appears to be convincing business customers to adopt more cloud-based services. In recent years, Microsoft has shifted some of its standalone software to Web-powered services. For example, the latest version of Microsoft Office, dubbed Office 365, is designed to let users access programs and save data anywhere, using the Internet. Windows 8 also relies heavily on applications downloaded from the Windows app store that are synchronized across multiple devices, such as tablets and smartphones.

Companies such as Microsoft, Google Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. have spent billions of dollars building cloud-based services as part of a push to convince customers to outsource their software and data storage. However, many businesses have been reluctant to rent software and storage space, in part because of concerns over data security, prompted by some high-profile hacking incidents in recent years, as well as this month’s revelations about widespread U.S. intelligence agency surveillance at many of the country’s top technology companies.

 
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