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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 Tony Swash on 3/8/2012 5:46:03 PM , Rating: -1
People rush to come up with so many reasons why the iPad should not sell in the quantity it does because it is so limited. So many reasons the PC is indispensable. And yet....

Microsoft typically sells most copies of its newest version of Windows the first year of release. For Windows 7, Microsoft sold...240 million.

Apple sold 62 million iOS devices in the last quarter of 2011. It is very likely, given the sustained growth iOS sales have shown for several years, that Apple will exceed 240 million iOS devices in 2012. In other words iOS will almost certainly sell more devices than Windows licences in 2012.

For all of the (inaccurate) listing of what you cannot do on an iPad almost no one lists the things you can do on iPad that you cannot do (or do easily) on a laptop. It is so very reminiscent of the way the PC was dismissed in it's early days as a more less frivolous and not very useful toy by the big boys of the IT world. And we all know how that turned out.


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
quote:
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.


By JasonMick (blog) 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
quote:
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.


"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer














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