Microsoft is working on building a checkout free retail technology which is quite similar to what Amazon has done with its Amazon Go stores. This technology will eliminate the need of cashiers at the stores or even the checkout lines. Microsoft is in talks with Walmart for potential collaboration of this technology and is also showing the nascent technology to other retailers for strategic technology partnerships.
This effort from Microsoft is directly targeted at Amazon Go which is a cashier free automated store which it opened in the city of Seattle in the month of January and has expanded to other cities as well. In an Amazon Go store customers can directly enter using their smartphones. Amazon Go uses cameras and sensors to see what they have removed from the shelves and when customers are done shopping they just simply leave from the store and Amazon directly charges their credit card which is stored on their Amazon accounts.
This effort plays nicely to Satya Nadella's 'Intelligent Edge Computing' Microsoft strategy which uses devices and sensors as well as machine learning on the site with sending minimal data to the cloud for processing. Microsoft has also hired a computer vision specialist from the Amazon Go's team to help expedite their efforts.
If this initiative takes off and more retailers join on board to partner up with Microsoft, then it can pose a serious threat to Amazon Go. Also as more retailers adopt this technology, it will drive business growth for Microsoft's cloud business Azure. Microsoft is already number two in cloud computing business, running closely behind Amazon AWS.