October 26, 2010

Microsoft Visionary Sees Post-PC World

Ray Ozzie, Microsoft Corp's resident visionary and departing software chief, said the company needs to move on from its Windows and Office roots and imagine a "post-PC world" of simple, global Web devices.

Five years ago, Ozzie envisioned Microsoft's future in Internet-based "cloud computing."

"Let's mark this 5-year milestone by once again fearlessly embracing that which is technologically inevitable," Ozzie said in a personal blog post addressed to executive staff and direct reports.

"The next five years will bring about yet another inflection point -- a transformation that will once again yield unprecedented opportunities for our company and our industry catalyzed by the huge and inevitable shift in apps and infrastructure that's truly now just begun."

Ozzie says that world will be one where users access always-available servers through "devices that are fundamentally appliance-like by design, from birth. They're instantly usable, interchangeable and trivially replaceable without loss."

Ozzie's call to arms is meant to urge the company, which has fallen behind Apple Inc. and Google Inc. in the smartphone and tablet computer market. 

"Close our eyes and form a realistic picture of what a post-PC world might actually look like, if it were to ever truly occur," wrote Ozzie in a memo posted on his personal blog on Monday. "Those who can envision a plausible future that's brighter than today will earn the opportunity to lead."

Ozzie, who announced his retirement from Microsoft last week, wrote in his "Internet Services Disruption" memoir five years ago that he envisioned now-common cloud computing.

On Monday, he said some of the goals he foresaw five years ago "remain elusive and are yet to be realized."

He went on to applaud competitors for "seamless fusion of hardware and software and services."

"Their execution has surpassed our own in mobile experiences," said Ozzie.

Microsoft's new phone software will be available in the U.S. next month, along with a slew of Windows-powered tablet devices expected to become available next year.

Ozzie said Microsoft needs to think about "cloud-based continuous services that connect us all and do our bidding" and "appliance-like connected devices enabling us to interact with those cloud-based services."

He said that these types of devices could be at home, in the car, controlling elevators or highways.

"Today's PC's, phones and pads are just the very beginning," said Ozzie. "We'll see decades to come of incredible innovation from which will emerge all sorts of 'connected companions' that we'll wear, we'll carry, we'll use on our desks and walls and the environment all around us."

Ozzie is working on some of Microsoft's entertainment projects before retiring from the company in several months.  He took over the role of Chief Software Architect from co-founder Bill Gates in 2006.

Gates started the tradition of the "call to action" internal memo, his most widely read being the "Internet Tidal Wave" memo in 1995, which urged the company to put the Web at the center of all its efforts.

Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said there are no plans to appoint a new chief software architect when Ozzie, 54, retires.


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