Microsoft smells Musk, splashes on 'Mune' space program

Data centres under water? Try the icy cold of spaaaace...

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Microsoft has filed a preliminary trademark application for “Mune,” spearheading an Amazon and SpaceX-like private space program.

The trademark is described as: “Liquid propellant-fired projectile technology for orbital location of modular data distribution components.

Trademark applications are much less detailed than patent applications, so we only have the sentence quoted above to go on.

However, Microsoft sources told The Reg, Mune is a part of a space program intended to challenge rivals Amazon and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Microsoft has been notorious in recent years for coming late to Earth-bound computing endeavours – smartphones, tablets and cloud.

Also, Microsoft desperately needs a hit – lacking a killer idea like the iPad or the driverless car. It has floated bots, but that's got off to a spectacularly bad start courtesy of Nazi potty mouth millennial brat Tay.

Mune could be that hit as Microsoft would be joining just a tiny elite of tech names – at least one being cloud rival Amazon – by going off-world.

“Google and Apple have cars. This is our big shot to really leap frog Silicon Valley thinking,” Microsoft’s source told The Reg.

“Satya [Nadella, CEO] is really on the hunt for big new ideas to put Microsoft on the forward foot of innovation. This is one of them.”

A Microsoft spokesperson refused to comment, but told The Reg a special “office of the CEO” had been formed by Nadella to examine new initiatives.

But why “Mune”?

“Zune was a great brand idea and just worked with Moon,” our source said. Zune was the name of Microsoft’s doomed iPod music player rival that Microsoft had a hard time killing, turning it from player to a service before, finally, taking it into the woods and shooting it in the head. "We just swapped names around - like we did with Surface and Surface."

The Register understands Microsoft also wants to explore space as a location for data centres. The company has already experimented with underwater data centres. The “Mune” trademark's reference to "orbital location of modular data distribution components" is, we are told, a hint that the company is considering putting data centre modules into space.

"It's the ultimate in elasticity," our source said. "If you need compute and comms in a hurry, or in a remote location, putting it all in orbit is the fastest way."

Shooting for space is not a cheap way to buy credibility. Microsoft does have $100bn in cash and Nadella’s networth is calculated at $84m.

But Bezos, net worth $46bn, has invested $500m of his own into Blue Origin with 10 launches since 2015. Founded in 2000, Blue Origin was revealed in 2003

Nerd pin-up and billionaire, Elon Musk – worth $13.5bn - founded Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) in 2002. Now a mass producer of rocket engines, Musk’s goal is now to reach Mars.

Nadella would need to draw extremely deeply on the private wealth of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, worth $79.2bn. But Gates’ attention is taken up mostly these days with vaccines.

Amazon wouldn’t comment on the story.

Contacted by The Reg, however, maverick obsessive billionaire Musk, laughed off the prospect of Microsoft in space.

“If Nadella really is shooting for the moon, Microsoft are bigger losers than I thought – don’t they realize space is all about Mars now,” Musk said whilst being strapped into a Falcon emergency ejector seat ahead of testing. “As a company, Microsoft’s had more unsuccessful launches than SpaceX!

“And what IT systems will his rockets run? Windows!”

Told Microsoft is actually now putting its SQL Server database on Linux and also developing software using Debian, Musk said: “Oh.” ®


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