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Ray Ozzie is retiring from Microsoft, but he has given the company vital innovation in his short tenure, helping to deliver Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Office 2010. He now is boldly predicting that the traditional PC may vanish from the Earth and be replaced with more mobile, internet-connected devices.  (Source: D8)

These devices will be smart-sensing, putting today's leading mobile experiences like the iPad to shame. They will be able to interact via user voice input, "see" the surroundings, and gather info through other senses as well.
Ozzie's previous post seems prophetic, will Microsoft heed his latest advice?

 

Ray Ozzie has been an important and innovative force in the software industry.  He helped to mastermind Lotus Notes.  And in 2005, he joined Microsoft after the company acquired his networking startup.  That year he became one of three Chief Technical Officers (CTOs).  And the next year it was announced that he would replace Bill Gates as the company's Chief Software Architect, a move that many argued placed him as third-in-command at Microsoft (after Ballmer and the semi-retired Gates) and a likely successor to Ballmer for the CEO spot.

However, Mr. Ozzie, 54, announced last week plans to "retire" from Microsoft.  This week he delivered the company an important parting gift -- a second prophetic software thesis in memo form.

Mr. Ozzie's first memo, entitled "The Internet Services Disruption" chastised Microsoft for letting Google, Skype, and others beat it in fields in which it had laid the groundwork.  The memo predicted the growth of advertising-driven services and an increasing need for "compelling, integrated user experiences that 'just work'".  Microsoft arguably delivered on the latter with Windows 7/Xbox Live, but has continued to struggle on the former with its advertising efforts falling far short of ad-driven services from Google, Facebook, Myspace, and others.

Of course Microsoft is hoping to finally improve on that objective with the ad-supported release of Office 2010 in June 2010.

So what's in Mr. Ozzie's second memo, entitled "Dawn of a New Day"?  Well the first thing he does is predict that a "'post-PC' world" is coming.  He writes:

[E]ven when superhuman engineering and design talent is applied, there are limits to how much you can apply beautiful veneers before inherent complexity is destined to bleed through.
Complexity kills. Complexity sucks the life out of users, developers and IT.  Complexity makes products difficult to plan, build, test and use.  Complexity introduces security challenges.  Complexity causes administrator frustration.
And as time goes on and as software products mature – even with the best of intent – complexity is inescapable.

Mr. Ozzie envisions that "connected devices" like smartphones and tablets with internet access will increasingly replace the personal computer.  He says that the concept of connected services -- internet delivered services, accessible at any time -- will become increasingly important.

In order to succeed in this new arena, Mr. Ozzie says that Microsoft needs to dream up "'killer apps & services' and 'killer devices'".  He says that tomorrow's apps will be dramatically different from today's and will feature an "amazing level of coherence across apps, services and devices."   He says that this "will require innovation in user experience, interaction model, authentication model, user data & privacy model, policy & management model, programming & application model."

And he predicts mobile devices with human-like senses of sight sound and touch -- and more -- eventually be a driving hardware force on the market.

He predicts, "Today’s PC’s, phones & pads are just the very beginning; 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 & walls and the environment all around us.  Service-connected devices going far beyond just the 'screen, keyboard and mouse':  humanly-natural 'conscious' devices that'll see, recognize, hear & listen to you and what’s around you, that’ll feel your touch and gestures and movement, that’ll detect your proximity to others; that’ll sense your location, direction, altitude, temperature, heartbeat & health."

Will Mr. Ozzie's vision of smart-sensing devices be realized in the next five years?  He's been on the mark so far.  And it's pretty exciting to think that it might be true, given the possibilities of such coherent, "smart" devices.  

A second critical question is whether Microsoft will be able to take advantage of this prediction to re-establish its leadership in the software and operating system market, at a time when its losing user-time to mobile platforms and seeing its own mobile efforts flounder.

 





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