What if someone could cut the queue that Amazon is leading? That too, one which is right on the edge of retail and worth billions of dollars- the automated grocery shop?

It is happening. Microsoft is pitting itself against its arch-rival in cloud business in a new game. One that Amazon started in Seattle with Amazon Go, a highly automated store wherein smartphones in the hands of customers, as well as cameras and sensors all around, allow for automated billing and payment; without the need for spending time in a check-out lane. No cashiers or registers, just subway-like gates. The technology is claimed to be so advanced that even if customers put items back on the shelf, those are automatically wiped off from their virtual baskets.

Interestingly, there were speculations that Amazon (the cloud giant) could sell the system to other retailers; and that should explain one of the triggers that sent Microsoft in this direction. Apart, of course, from the fat revenue magnet that automated check-out space can be as an aisle worth $50 billion (estimates from Loup Ventures). Potential collaboration talks with Walmart and sample technology-proofs to retailers from around the world are cementing this foray from Microsoft as a serious one.While Amazon is tight-lipped about what’s under the hood here (something about machine learning may be), Microsoft is building this around business AI (Artificial Intelligence) and partner-service layers atop Microsoft’s cloud.

The key to getting ahead of its nemesis in this lane is giving it cheap (what worked in favour of Amazon’s public cloud) to retailers, and that’s what Microsoft is, reportedly, aiming at too.