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Software giant's former tech chief is uncertain how Windows 8 will fare

People argue about 'are we in a post-PC world?'. Why are we arguing? Of course we are in a post-PC world.  That doesn't mean the PC dies, that just means that the scenarios that we use them in, we stop referring to them as PCs, we refer to them as other things.

That statement sounds like your typical rhetoric from mobile players like Google Inc. (GOOG) or Apple, Inc. (AAPL).  However, a man who was once considered destined to become the CEO of Microsoft Corp (MSFT) delivered it.  That man is Ray Ozzie.

I. The Man Who Might Have Been CEO

Ray Ozzie's career at Microsoft was relatively short-lived, but he made quite a splash while he was there.  After developing Lotus Notes in the 1980s and 1990s, working with International Business Machines, Inc. (IBM), Mr. Ozzie had founded Groove Networks -- makers of a collaborative shared notespace product.  When Microsoft acquired Groove in 2005, as an addition to its Office Suite, Mr. Ozzie became Microsoft's Chief Technology Officer.  

In 2006 Bill Gates departed from the role of chief software architect and willed the position to Mr. Ozzie, leading many to believe he was the heir apparent after new CEO Steve Ballmer retired.  However, it was not to be.  Clashes with current Windows President Steven Sinofsky reportedly led to Mr. Ozzie reevaluating the company and his role at it.

Ray Ozzie at Microsoft
[Image Source: Software Development Times]

He stepped down in Dec. 2010, leaving behind a lasting impact in terms of having pushed Microsoft to embrace cloud services.  Mr. Ozzie, who last year began recruit top talent for a mysterious communications startup dubbed "Cocomo," says that ultimately the push towards the cloud that he inspired at Microsoft was not enough to prevent the demise of the traditional PC.

The 56-year-old software architect's comments were his first public comments since his Microsoft departure, and they came at an interesting time -- just hours after Apple's announcement of the iPad 3.  Mr. Ozzie's speech was delivered at Geekwire's Seattle tech conference.

II. Ray Ozzie: "Shift" Needed for Windows 8 to be Successful

Mr. Ozzie offered some cautious praise for his former employer.  He implies that when he first came to Microsoft, things were badly broken.  He remarks:
My job there was primarily a change management job. I was asked by Bill (Gates) and Steve (Ballmer, the CEO) to come in, look at the company, decide what was broken and try your best to fix it.

I feel very good about a number of things that did change. The company's a lot different now, it's come a long way and I'm happy about some things and I'm impatient about other things.

Metro Apps in Windows  8
A slew of Metro Ui apps in Windows 8 [Image Source: The Verge]

His mixed sentiments regarding his former employer are mirrored in his thoughts on its upcoming star productWindows 8.  He cryptically remarks, "If Windows 8 shifts in a form that people really want to buy the product, the company will have a great future.  In any industry, if people look at their own needs, and look at the products and say, 'I understand why I had it then, and I want something different', they will not have as good a future. It's too soon to tell."

He did not elaborate much on what kind of "shift" he thought Windows 8 needed in order to be more appealing.

III. The "Gloom and Doom" Scenario

He was, however, happy to outline the worst-case scenario for Microsoft, though -- or as he calls it the "doom and gloom" scenario.  He said that such a scenario would comprise customers switching fully to portable, non-Windows products.

Is the good old PC on its death-bed?  Mr. Ozzie sure thinks so.  He concludes, "It's a world of phones and pads and devices of all kinds, and our interests in general purpose computing -- or desktop computing -- starts to wane and people start doing the same things and more in other scenarios."

PC in the trash
[Image Source: Sync-Blog]

Of course such statements have often proved premature in the past.  For example, CNN Money famously wrote that Microsoft's consumer brand was "dying" in 2010.  That same year Microsoft ripped off the biggest operating system sales in its history and had a strong showing on the gaming console market.

That said, Ray Ozzie was a voice that Bill Gates and others at Microsoft trusted.  So perhaps his statement carries a bit more weight. 

Source: Reuters

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By Reclaimer77 on 3/8/2012 12:26:59 PM , Rating: 2
The only value that a desktop of 2008 has over a new iPad is the size of the screen and a larger hard drive.

Tony how can you buy into such a purposefully idealized half-truth statement? Is that really the ONLY value one can think of that a desktop has over an iPad?

The "post-PC" era is a myth, a fabrication. What we see is not the PC market-share shrinking, but merely the mobile device space growing. People understand that they must still be productive, and tablets fall woefully short in that department.

I don't know Horace Dediu, but knowing you favor him, I'm inclined to think he's the same sort of sensationalized and highly biased pro-iDevice blogger you typically reference here. Based strictly on his homepage alone, it seems he exclusively focuses on Apple products and nothing else.

But strictly based on the premise of his argument, he's comparing apples to oranges. And 4 year old oranges at that.

By StevoLincolnite on 3/8/2012 12:35:37 PM , Rating: 2
But strictly based on the premise of his argument, he's comparing apples to oranges. And 4 year old oranges at that.

I love how he compares an iPad against 4-5 year old PC's and that they are closing in on Intel and AMD in terms of performance.

It's impossible for a low-powered ARM processor to match a 100w+ TDP desktop processor.
The Desktop x86 chips are larger, more complex, newer technologies, massive amounts of bandwidth, lower fabrication processes with larger TDP and transistor budgets to squeeze out extra performance.

Arm chips would need to pull a massive turn around in terms of IPC to out-gun the latest and greatest of x86 processors.

Hell. Medfield is faster than most Arm chips and that's based on the Atom core if I remember rightly. And we all know how woeful Intel Atom is, right?

I always call Shenanigans when people proclaim that Arm will displace x86 in the performance stakes, I doubt that will change any time in the near future.

By Uncle on 3/8/2012 12:57:28 PM , Rating: 3
The only people that would like to see the pc disappear is the RIAA/MPAA. If we all owned the tablets, no reason for torrents. No storage capacity.:)

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain

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