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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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Mr. Ozzie has been blinded by razzle dazzle
By geddarkstorm on 3/8/2012 1:12:36 PM , Rating: 5
No, we are not in a post PC world. Yes, mobile devices are on the rise, but mobile devices are consumption devices. A tablet could never allow you to produce content like a PC can. You can't write reports, you can't make music, you can't program games on the mobile device itself at any speed or efficiency remotely like a desktop. And you certainly can't do science or anything that requires powerful computation.

Yes, tablet hardware has grown by leaps and bounds, but it is no where near the power of desktop hardware, and it can only expand so much due to the limited size, power, and thermals of the "mobile" package.

Gamers, content creators, students, scientists, people who are productive.. they all need PCs/laptops, and mobile (tablet/phone) devices will never supplant that. And in the end, the reason isn't only the hardware per se, it's the interface. Touch screens cannot rival a keyboard for writing. A small 10" screen can't rival a 19" monitor for multitasking (movie watching/game playing also counts). Moving your figure around can't rival the versatility of a mouse with it's ability to both drag and click in multiple ways for highlighting text, bringing up alternate menus, and interfacing with the machine in a localized and rapid manner. The work flow of a PC/Laptop is in no way being challenged by the basically non-existent work flow of a mobile device.

Dock systems like the Transformer, once Windows 8 hits, can in a way bridge some of this gap and blur the distinction (other than for hardware). But will people really care to tether their mobile devices inefficiently to a dock when they can just have dedicated, cheap PC hardware to give them another computer to work with while keeping their mobile free to be mobile (the whole point of mobile's existence)?

Microsoft needs to realize this. They need to realize that for pure consumption, a mobile device is more convenient than a PC and obviously wins out. But for productivity, there is no contest, the PC/Laptop is the only way to go. Instead of trying to merge the desktop and mobile experience and thereby making a bastardized system, Microsoft needs to realize the difference between desktop and mobile and play to the strengths of both. We no longer need an All-In-One; and if Microsoft and differentiate the desktop and mobile experience meaningfully, it stands to make a much larger profit while giving consumers powerful tools to maximize the differing utility of both styles of devices.

Hopefully Mr. Ozzie comes off this iPad high and gets back down to earth. The only thing magical about the iPad is how it blinds people into a momentary "mobile will solve everything!" frenzy. The truth is almost always in the middle.

This is all just my analysis, of course.




By retrospooty on 3/8/2012 1:43:18 PM , Rating: 5
Also, you can add the whole enterprise sector. You know, the software that the whole world runs off of. Even the plants that make Mac's, iphones and ipads all run off PC and MS enterprise server software. The accounting , parts procurement, logistics, reverse logistics, shop floor, and every other piece of the business all runs on PC's and Windows servers.

A viable replacment isnt close, none has even been started, much less planned, sold, implemented, debugged, and widely adopted. It will be decades to topple that beast...


RE: Mr. Ozzie has been blinded by razzle dazzle
By Operandi on 3/8/2012 2:26:47 PM , Rating: 2
Also smart phones and tablets are still relatively new segment the only direction they have to go is up but that doesn’t mean they are replacing existing market segments (desktops and notebooks), for some yes, but not for many.

I mean I really like my Android phone but now that wow factor has worn off I use it less and less aside from the basic web page reading and e-mail composing.


By Makaveli on 3/8/2012 7:21:24 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think I could switch to browsing on my phone only the screen is too small.

My desktop machine at home is a 24` 1920x1200 IPS monitor.

What your doing would just cramp my style too much.


By SlyNine on 3/11/2012 6:20:46 PM , Rating: 2
I'd say Smart Phones have reached the limits of what they can provide in the form factor. To get more you basically have to turn them in to a notebook.

Tablets have alittle more to offer, but I don't think the ceiling is to far away for them, and again to get much more out of them you have to turn them in to a notebook.

The desktop won't be as popular as it has in the past, but I think its reached its stabilizing point. Everyone that's bought a desktop in the last 4 years has had the option of a DTR notebook.

As far as "post PC" thats just a buzz word and doesn't mean jack.


RE: Mr. Ozzie has been blinded by razzle dazzle
By mcnabney on 3/8/2012 2:31:05 PM , Rating: 1
So?

When you think of personal transportation what do you think of, your car or the road? Microsoft's virtual monopoly in the OS will continue, but the future and the mindset is in the applications.

I believe that Win8 will completely fail because application developers don't want to give MS a chunk of every transaction (Metro apps all go through MS, for nice big fee). See: EA shifting away from Steam to their own front-end, Origin.


By retrospooty on 3/8/2012 2:54:13 PM , Rating: 2
" Microsoft's virtual monopoly in the OS will continue, but the future and the mindset is in the applications."

Yes, and in the highly profitable enterprise sector, the application developers, and any and all other IT dept decision makers mindsets are all MS windows client/server. Its WAY to big to move. Like I said, it wouldnt be impossible , but to get to that goal, someone has to start. No-one has. Apple, Google as great as their toys are, they are still just toys.

Call me when that new enterprise level accounting software comes out on an iPhone, or tell me when that shop floor management database app works on an Android phone. Call me when large call centers can run thier CRM software on a tablet. Its not happening any time soon.


RE: Mr. Ozzie has been blinded by razzle dazzle
By Taft12 on 3/8/12, Rating: -1
By retrospooty on 3/9/2012 10:43:03 AM , Rating: 2
And the servers the databases live on are???
Run in browsers on your tablet? Or just run in browsers on PC's

I have yet to see any advanced web based app that works well on any tablet or phone OS. I am sure some of the more simple ones work, but not at all a repleacement.


By hiscross on 3/8/2012 3:37:31 PM , Rating: 2
"Microsoft's virtual monopoly in the OS will continue"

Hum ios and andriod are OS. Microsoft probably will always "own" the desktop, like IBM "owns" the mainframe.


By Manch on 3/8/2012 6:43:01 PM , Rating: 2
I think of both. Bc one usually dictated the other. As far as those apps go, how is that any different than apples model? Ms will be providing a unified OS from the desktop to the phone. That's pretty compelling all by itself. Then there's the current compatibility with 3rd party software that cant he beat.


By SoCalBoomer on 3/9/2012 2:06:46 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I believe that iOS will completely fail because application developers don't want to give Apple a chunk of every transaction (iOS apps all go through Apple, for nice big fee). See: EA shifting away from Steam to their own front-end, Origin.


Strangely, swapping this over to "the other side" and this statement has been being made for quite a while and yet there are more and more iOS apps being created all the time . . .


By kingmotley on 3/9/2012 10:32:08 AM , Rating: 3
A very accurate analysis of the marketplace. Mobile/Tablets are currently overhyped, and the doom of the PC is vastly exaggerated. Mobiles/tablets aren't likely to replace PCs any time in the future for many of the reasons you just mentioned. Add in that they will always be more expensive because they have to worry more about weight, heat, and battery run-time, and you start to see it's just not possible with today's technology.

Then you have a new bunch of programmers who all want to use the latest and greatest languages that are terrible performance wise, and you see a collision course. Things aren't going to start demanding less for the same amount of work (and haven't for a long time). It's just going to continue to get worse, which really puts a damper on the whole mobile technology.


By rburnham on 3/12/2012 9:11:45 AM , Rating: 2
That seems like a reasonable analysis. The PC is still a PC, but bit by bit new things are being added to it. With Windows 8, touch is becoming more of a focus, but the PC will still do everything it always did. Tablets are a nice secondary solution, but definitely not a replacement for a regular computer.

The biggest change I have seen is how functional the average laptop has become. A lot of people I know use them as desktop replacements. Some do because they just don't need the power and flexibility of a desktop, and they prefer the portability. Others I know use laptops with big screens and powerful hardware as full-fledged gaming systems.

I really like how many options we have for computing these days. Technology has given us amazing things. The PC is not dead, it's just made some new friends.


"Game reviewers fought each other to write the most glowing coverage possible for the powerhouse Sony, MS systems. Reviewers flipped coins to see who would review the Nintendo Wii. The losers got stuck with the job." -- Andy Marken














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