Last week at Hannover Messe, Microsoft and German carmaker BMW announced a partnership to build a hardware and software technology framework and reference architecture for the industrial internet of things (IoT), and foster a community to spread these smart-factory solutions across the automotive and manufacturing industries.\nThe stated goal of the Open Manufacturing Platform (OMP)? According to the press release, it's \u201cto drive open industrial IoT development and help grow a community to build future Industry 4.0 solutions.\u201d To make that a reality, the companies said that by the end of 2019, they plan to attract four to six partners \u2014 including manufacturers and suppliers from both inside and outside the automotive industry \u2014 and to have rolled out at least 15 use cases operating in actual production environments.\n\nComplex and proprietary is bad for IoT\nIt sounds like a great idea, right? As the companies rightly point out, many of today\u2019s industrial IoT solutions rely on \u201ccomplex, proprietary systems that create data silos and slow productivity.\u201d Who wouldn\u2019t want to \u201cstandardize data models that enable analytics and machine learning scenarios\u201d and \u201caccelerate future industrial IoT developments, shorten time to value, and drive production efficiencies while addressing common industrial challenges\u201d?\nBut before you get too excited, let\u2019s talk about a key word in the effort: open. As Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft Cloud + AI Group, said in a statement, "Our commitment to building an open community will create new opportunities for collaboration across the entire manufacturing value chain."\nThe Open Manufacturing Platform is open only to Microsoft Azure\nHowever, that will happen as long as all that collaboration occurs in Microsoft Azure. I\u2019m not saying Azure isn\u2019t up to the task, but it\u2019s hardly the only (or even the leading) cloud platform interested in the industrial IoT. Putting everything in Azure might be an issue to those potential OMP partners. It\u2019s an \u201copen\u201d question as to how many companies already invested in Amazon Web Services (AWS) or the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) will be willing to make the switch or go multi-cloud just to take advantage of the OMP.\nMy guess is that Microsoft and BMW won\u2019t have too much trouble meeting their initial goals for the OMP. It shouldn\u2019t be that hard to get a handful of existing Azure customers to come up with 15 use cases leveraging advances in analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and digital feedback loops. (As an example, the companies cited the autonomous transport systems in BMW\u2019s factory in Regensburg, Germany, part of the more than 3,000 machines, robots and transport systems connected with the BMW Group\u2019s IoT platform, which \u2014 naturally \u2014 is built on Microsoft Azure's cloud.)\nWill non-Azure users jump on board the OMP?\nThe question is whether tying all this to a single cloud provider will affect the effort to attract enough new companies \u2014 including companies not currently using Azure \u2014 to establish a truly viable open platform?\nPerhaps Stacey Higginbotham at Stacy on IoT put it best:\n\n\u201cWhat they really launched is a reference design for manufacturers to work from.\u201d\n\nThat\u2019s not nothing, of course, but it\u2019s a lot less ambitious than building a new industrial IoT platform. And it may not easily fulfill the vision of a community working together to create shared solutions that benefit everyone.