Microsoft and Amazon.com have clashed with IBM and a group of other leading technology companies over an attempt to set some broad technology principles for the coming era of “cloud computing”.

The unusual public spat points to a deeper struggle under way between some of the world’s biggest technology concerns as they try to position themselves for what is expected to be the next big thing in the tech world.

The skirmish “is about personalities, and anxieties about perceptions of leadership” between some of the tech industry’s biggest rivals, said Frank Gillett, an analyst at Forrester Research.

“Cloud computing” has become the catch-all term for a number of different approaches to computing that share a common element: the greater centralisation of computing power in large-scale datacentres, rather than on PCs or individual servers.

They range from consumer internet services that store a user’s data online to the sale of raw computing power to corporate customers, a business in which Amazon has become the leader.

The skirmish between tech groups blew up on Friday after Microsoft and Amazon revealed that they were not joining a group of other technology concerns in signing a “manifesto” outlining broad technology goals to make sure cloud computing remains an open market – for instance, enabling customers to move their data freely between different suppliers.

The full list of companies behind the manifesto has yet to be disclosed, but Steven Martin, a Microsoft engineer, said the initiative was led by IBM and a website created to promote the initiative, called opencloudmanifesto.org, which was registered by an IBM technology strategist. IBM refused to comment.

Mr Martin denounced large parts of the manifesto, a copy of which leaked on to the web on Friday, as “so vacuous it’s hard to know what the author meant”. Writing separately in a blog post, he added: “It appears to us that one company, or just a few companies, would prefer to control the evolution of cloud computing, as opposed to reaching a consensus across key stakeholders (including cloud users) through an ‘open’ process.”

Amazon also said it would not back the manifesto, adding that “the best way to illustrate openness and customer flexibility is by what you actually provide to [customers]”.

Microsoft and Amazon both said they fully supported the basic objectives of openness set out in the manifesto.

The wording of the leaked document was uncontroversial and suggested that the disagreement was really prompted by an unwillingness on the part of Microsoft and Amazon, which have shown early leadership in cloud computing, to give up control to other companies, Mr Gillett said.

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