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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 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.


"Well, there may be a reason why they call them 'Mac' trucks! Windows machines will not be trucks." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer














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