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Forbidden Technologies PLC into the Azure

Shares in the video editing specialist have shot up on news of its agreement with Microsoft, but why is inclusion in the Miscorosft Azure Marketplace significant?

Jam tomorrow ... it's a bit like a preserves maker winning shelf space in Tesco

Shares of Forbidden Technologies PLC (LON:FBT) were the top risers on Wednesday morning after it announced an eye-catching deal with Microsoft.

The AIM-listed cloud-based video editing specialist's Forscene software is to be visible in one of the biggest shop windows there is for cloud-based applications: Microsoft Azure Marketplace.

For technophobes, it may help to regard this as somewhat akin to, say, a small jam & preserves maker securing some shelf space in Tesco or Sainsbury's.

For those familiar with the smartphone apps model, it equates to being included in the app store of, say, Apple or Google.

In other words, its a big deal, though of course being in the shop window does not guarantee sales. Nevertheless, Forbidden said it expects to generate some revenue from the collaboration this year but, given the try-before-you-buy opportunities offered by the cloud (i.e. remotely-hosted software) model, the real benefits should start to kick in next year.

Still confused?

Here are a few explanations that might help.

Cloud computing

Before the personal desktop computer revolution kicked off by IBM back in the seventies, it was the norm for users to gain access to computing power by means of a (relatively) dumb terminal connected to a central powerful computer.

That all changed with the advent of personal computers (PCs), and we all got used to installing software on our hard drives so we could make use of the computing power offered by the computing revolution.

We also got used to upgrading that software – or not – periodically; we got used to installing – or not – security patches and bug fixes; and then we got used to using the internet and accessing data from remote computers.

Suddenly, it was back to the sixties, with desktop devices hooked up to remote computers, only this time instead of the remote computers being massive mainframe beasts of the like seen in the film “Billion Dollar Brain”, the computers could, thanks to the wonders of networks and the internet, be scattered all round the world.

From accessing data and content via the browser it was a short step to also accessing the software functionality via the browser or similar piece of locally installed resource-light software.

That's essentially what the cloud is: running programs via a browser.

Though there are some drawbacks – such as not having control over where your data is stored and having to trust the service provider – there are plenty of benefits to this model.

For one, instead of having to download updates, security patches, bug fixes and plug-ins, all of this is done behind the scenes centrally by the service provider.

Also, it facilitates a pay-as-you-go metered usage model that many businesses find convenient.

Microsoft Azure

As one might expect of a company that built its reputation by serving the corporate market (while making a pretty penny out of the consumer while it was at it), Microsoft is a big player in the cloud computing arena.

Azure is the Seattle software giant's cloud services platform. As well as providing the servers in data centres, Microsoft provides an operating system and a set of developer services and tools that work in harmony with each other.

Microsoft Azure Marketplace

Launched in 2012 as the Azure store, the Azure Marketplace is adding more than 10,000 customers a week.

It facilitates the deployment via Azure of multi-tier applications and extensions with a click of a mouse, and gives software developers such as Forbidden access to global and enterprise customers.

Microsoft says that more than 85% of the companies in the Fortune 500 already use Azure, so for a small company like Forbidden, valued at £15mln, the chance to get its product seen by such heavy hitters is a massive opportunity.

Microsoft also makes life easier for small companies such as Forbidden by handling customer subscriptions, provisioning and billing, and the platform is flexible enough to offer features such as country-specific pricing.

Customers can go through the marketplace’s listings and then fire-up an application in a matter of moments, give the app a whirl and then decide if they want to sign up for a subscription.

In the same way that eBay and Amazon have made it possible for the independent traders of the world to compete with the likes of Argos and WH Smith, so Microsoft Azure Marketplaces levels the playing field and gives smaller companies a chance to compete head-to-head with much larger peers.

Quick facts: Blackbird PLC

Price: 16.5 GBX

Market: AIM
Market Cap: £53.56 m

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