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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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RE: Getting a perspective on the speed of change
By JasonMick on 3/8/2012 4:31:41 PM , Rating: 4
The only value that a desktop of 2008 has over a new iPad is the size of the screen and a larger hard drive.

To be frank, Tony, that analysis is bullcrap.

You can not use Microsoft Office on an iPad. Even if a version arrives, it will doubtless be subtly gimped/impaired vs. its desktop brethren.

You can not write computer code easily on the iPad.

You can not use Photoshop (this one hits close to home for Mac users like yourself, right?) on the iPad.

You can not run the best enthusiast 3D games on your iPad (Dead Space Mobile, Infinity Blade, and Fruit Ninja are good, but they're no Dead Space 2/Crysis/Metro 2033).

You can not write long emails on your iPad easily. Short ones sure, but past a short one, typing becomes a massive PITA on the iPad or any tablet.

You can not run database or most enterprise software on an iPad.

You can not design multi-compatible webpages on the iPad.

Again, there is so much more value to a PC, it is an astounding display of ignorance for an analyst to make such a comment. Pure bullcrap.

RE: Getting a perspective on the speed of change
By Tony Swash on 3/8/12, Rating: -1
RE: Getting a perspective on the speed of change
By x10Unit1 on 3/8/2012 6:32:51 PM , Rating: 2
Way to miss the point, Tony. But it gives you the chance to justify your iOS purchase to everyone. Not that anyone cares, especially here. I thought you would have got that point by now.

Since you are an iPad expert, please provide us the iPad apps that do exactly what Jason listed above.

You have the opportunity to list everything the iPad does that a laptop cannot or easily do. Lets see that list.

RE: Getting a perspective on the speed of change
By Makaveli on 3/8/2012 7:00:31 PM , Rating: 3
I want to see this list of what I can't do on my Ultracompact Sony Vaio Z that a tablet can do better.

Please do tell!

By Tony Swash on 3/9/2012 10:01:22 AM , Rating: 1
I want to see this list of what I can't do on my Ultracompact Sony Vaio Z that a tablet can do better

I am not going to do a comprehensive list but surely it is not surprising that, just like with the birth of the PC, new uses are developed as result of a new type of device, uses that were not possible or even foreseen on the old type of device. To give a trivial example from my own recent experience, yesterday I held my iPad up so that it showed an exact chart of the night sky that was behind it (which my app does automatically - no settings required) and identified a bright star I could see. This sort of powerful location and orientation based usage is typical of what tablets are very good at as compared to say a laptop, augmented reality is becoming a very powerful arena of mobile development and usage. By the way I also get instant on and get 10+ hours of continuous battery life - what do you get on your Vaio?

RE: Getting a perspective on the speed of change
By SlyNine on 3/11/2012 6:37:43 PM , Rating: 2
Give me one thing a Ipad can do with software, that a PC cannot do. One thing, just one besides being more portable.

By SlyNine on 3/11/2012 6:42:02 PM , Rating: 2
And that star chart thing, it could be done on any notebook as well.

RE: Getting a perspective on the speed of change
By JasonMick on 3/8/2012 6:34:59 PM , Rating: 2
So let's be clear here, Tony, you're predicting that people won't use PCs in the future and will do all their work on a tablet?

By Scrogneugneu on 3/8/2012 10:14:58 PM , Rating: 1
I would predict that as well.

Most probably a tablet using a workstation (including bigger screen + keyboard + mouse), but I see no need for those big, clunky physical boxes now that we have a rapidly evolving, smaller form-factor that can already accomplish a lot of work by itself.

Moreover, everybody talks about the cloud. That's really just the big swing back to server-heavy computing, like a long time ago with thin clients and terminals. If all the major work is done on the server, and the client only does a limited amount of work, why not use a small, portable device instead of a big box? Where's the benefit of using the box, especially since using web services, you're not even locked into Windows anymore? Why do you think Windows 8 is trying to blend into the tablet world so much? If you add in a larger screen and a keyboard/mouse, is the computing power provided by a tablet good enough? What about next year? What about in 2 years? In 5 years?

Now I'm not saying the switch is happening tomorrow. But 10 years from now? I'm not so sure the desktop PC will still be everywhere. 10 years ago, the iPod was starting. Intel was still running on Pentium3, and was starting on the first P4. We had between 128 and 512 MB of RAM. Back then, could you believe that 10 years later, we'd all have a phone looking like that iPod that would actually pack more punch than the best desktop PC we had?

By SlyNine on 3/11/2012 6:40:54 PM , Rating: 2
If people wan't to give up control of their data to a cloud then it will be a sad sad day for me.

But I doubt that will happen, and by the time you've turned your tablet in to a PC, you could have just built a PC.

By Tony Swash on 3/9/2012 9:50:34 AM , Rating: 1
So let's be clear here, Tony, you're predicting that people won't use PCs in the future and will do all their work on a tablet?

No. I do think that the PC will become just another device, used a lot by a few and hardly at all by the majority of people. It will no longer be the central pivot of the computing world and will no longer be that important. In five years most work and almost all play will not be on a PC.

By palladium on 3/8/2012 11:43:18 PM , Rating: 3
Someone here in DT once posted some very wise words, which goes along the lines of this, "Apple makes great toys. If they suddenly die tomorrow, people would just move on. If MS suddenly dies tomorrow, the whole world would grind to a hault, since almost all of the corporate world relies on MS software for their day to day productivity". Until your iOS devices can take over the role of the arrays of server deployed (with Windows Server 2003/2008/2008R2) and their respective clients (mostly running XP/Vista/7), I don't see how the statement in you final paragraph can be true.

RE: Getting a perspective on the speed of change
By x10Unit1 on 3/8/2012 6:09:12 PM , Rating: 2

I know we all love to get on the Tony bashing train, myself included, but to be fair I think this was more of a spec comparison. Looking at the actual article it looks to be comments about a spec comparison sheet.

If it was implied that the iPad and a 4 year old MAC has about the same specs AND functionality, I must have missed it. But you are right if that what was being implied, the guy is an idiot.

For content creators such as yourself the PC isn't going away for you anytime in the near future. However, they might be for most content consumers though.

By x10Unit1 on 3/8/2012 6:20:50 PM , Rating: 2
This is what I get for taking too long to hit the Post Comment button.

Jason, please forgive me as I am apparently having a foot in mouth moment.

By Tony Swash on 3/9/2012 9:36:00 AM , Rating: 1
I didn't want to reply to Jason because such discussion is just so tedious, it's a bit like people looking out of a window at heavy rain falling having a discussion about why rain is unlikely.

It seems fairly obvious to me that the 50 million people who bought the iPad so far and the 100 million plus who will buy an iPad in the next year or so are finding them pretty attractive and useful. It also seems obvious that for many people an iPad is plenty computing power enough. It is also obvious that the iPad does stuff that laptops and desktops don't, like getting 10 hour battery life routinely, like being able to hold it up to the night sky so it can identify all the stars I am looking at, like using it to navigate in real time a route through some obscure back country roads, just a few things I have used mine for in the last two days, but one could go on and on with usage scenarios that are unique to or much easier on the iPad/tablet form factor.

Nobody is saying that the PC will disappear it just that it will quickly lose it's central place in the world of personal computing devices and become just another computing device that most people might use occasionally, quite a few never and a very few quite a lot. Even Microsoft can see this - it's not a controversial perspective anymore. Its just what is obviously happening.

Lets turn to Jason's list.

Microsoft Office. Probably coming to the iPad (if Microsoft have any sense) but it is trivial and easy to open and edit Word, Excel and Powerpoint files on an iPad right now, there are many very cheap solutions for doing this. Personally I gave up Word and Excel for Pages and Numbers and never have any problem sharing Office format files via my Mac or my iPad. Almost everyone hardly uses more than the basic features of the Office programs and as long as they can read and write Office files it's a big non-issue whether there is an actual Office suite or not.

Computer code. There are plenty of very good and varied text writing apps for the iPad of course but there is also iPad Apps like CodeToGo that support the following languages:

Ada (.adb)?Assembly (gcc - .s; nasm - .asm)?AWK (.awk)?Bash (.sh)?bc (.bc)?bf (.bf)?C (.c)?C99 Strict (.c)?C# (C Sharp - .cs)?C++ (.cpp)?C++0x (.cpp)?CLIPS (.cli)?Clojure (.clj)?COBOL (.cob)?COBOL 85 (.85.cob)?Common Lisp (.lisp)?D (.d)?Erlang (.hrl)?F# (.fs)?Factor (.factor)?Forth (.4th)?Fortran (.f)?Go (.go)?Groovy (.groovy)?Haskell (.hs)?Icon (.icn)?Intercal (.i)?Java (.java)?JavaScript (.js)?Lua (.lua)?Nemerle (.n)?Nice (.nice)?Nimrod (.nim)?Ocaml (.ml)?Oz (.oz)?Pascal (.pas)?Perl (Perl - .pl; Perl6 - (.php)?Pike (.pike)?Prolog (GNU -; SWI - (Python - .py, Python3 - (.r)?Ruby (.ruby)?Scala (.scala)?Scheme (.scm)?Smalltalk (.st)?SQL (SQLite - .sql)?Tcl (.tcl)?Unlambda (.unl)?Visual Basic .NET (.vb)

You can not use Photoshop. Yes you can as Adobe have released Photoshop Touch for the iPad. Also see the really excellent iPhoto for iPad that Apple released this week, plus very good apps like Snapseed . I use all three. I also noticed this week the launch of a specialist photographers using iPad magazine, a sign of the times.

You can not run the best enthusiast 3D games. True, for now, but the gap is closing fast and the term 'enthusiast' really means 'minority' in terms of the game market. iOS is the worlds largest game platform. Gaming on the iPad is very healthy and accelerating.

You can not write long emails on your iPad easily. Thats your personal limitation, many seem very capable of doing so and what's the average length of emails anyway? How many 'long' emails get written? If I have to write more than a few hundred words I just pair my iPad with my bluetooth keyboard - it seems a no brainer to me. I use the excellent wingstand

You can not run database or most enterprise software on an iPad. Yes you can. Try for example Filemaker Go which I use and which is pretty good. iOS fully supports Microsoft Exchange in the enterprise and all sorts of specialist enterprise and business apps are available and the number is growing all the time, check out http: //

You can not design multi-compatible webpages on the iPad. Almost true but there apps like Gusto which is a full-featured website development environment designed exclusively for the iPad, and there amny more web site design orientated apps. The only reason to still use a desktop PC for web site design is for testing purposes and as more people use mobile devices for accessing the web so the importance of testing on a PC declines. Already more people access the web from mobile devices than from PCs.

RE: Getting a perspective on the speed of change
By palladium on 3/9/2012 9:58:09 PM , Rating: 2
I have to disagree with a lot of what Tony said.

Computer code. Sure you can write your code on the iPad (but personally I'd prefer a keyboard for that), but what about things like compiling and debugging? Can the iPad do it? Probably. Can it do it fast enough? Probably not. When writing code, is it worth to sacrifice the performance penalty and the efficiency of a keyboard and multi-monitor setup for mobility and battery life? Definitely not.

Photoshop. Sure you can use it on an iPad, but is it good enough for professional work? Can you calibrate the screen on an iPad? Do you know what the colour space of the screen is? What about complex, 3D rendering, or manipulation of large files? Does the iPad have the hardware to do those things at an acceptable speed?

Games. No offence, but I think graphics on the PS3 far, far outclasses the iPad. Even the graphics on PS2 doesn't look too bad when compared to the games on iPad. Let alone dedicated desktop systems. Sure enthusiasts are minorities, but they typically spend the most money on games compared to your average joe. To say iOS is the worlds largest gaming platform is very arrogant - what about the consoles?

By stephenbrooks on 3/10/2012 12:30:53 PM , Rating: 2
Right now the iPad (any iOS device) can't compile or even interpret code because Apple forbid it.

Android could do, but then you'd find yourself adding a keyboard dock and then you'd have...... a Linux netbook. :)

By Cheesew1z69 on 3/10/2012 1:22:29 PM , Rating: 2
is very arrogant
You are responding to the biggest iTool on here....

By Tony Swash on 3/11/2012 7:57:43 AM , Rating: 2
We can debate this stuff for ever. For some people a tablet will never work, because of personal preferences or because of the specialist type of work they do. But that doesn't change the fact that for the vast bulk of the activities that the vast bulk of the consumers (and enterprises) do, the tablet is good enough and comes with some big attractive advantages over the PC.

Whether that statement is true will be shown by how things unfold over the next couple of years.

Picking up on a couple of points.

Photography and iPads. I watch Photoshop TV regularly and recently iPads and iPad techniques have begun to figure in quite a lot of the shows content. An indicator of a shift I feel.

On games: check this out

"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay

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