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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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Yes, we are
By Argon18 on 3/9/2012 4:01:39 PM , Rating: 1
We are indeed in a post peecee world. Microsoft's desktop market share is declining, Apple's is rising, and Linux (Android) and iOS dominate the handheld space. There was a time when many consumer facing web sites ONLY work on Internet Explorer on a Microsoft Windows PC. Those days are long gone. Business has realized that they need to create content that is accessible just the same from Windows, Apple, Linux, or whatever.

Certain markets will of course be dominated by a specific OS, business document creators use Windows, creative content creators use Mac OS, software developers love Linux, etc.

But the fact remains that content must now be created with a broad spectrum of operating systems and devices in mind, on the consumer end. The consumer is no longer locked into the Microsoft ecosystem, and the business that doesn't realize this will fail. If a consumer cannot access their bank's web site from their iPad, what are they going to do? Throw out their iPad? Of course not. They're going to switch banks.

What does this all mean? Not what you think. Microsoft PC's are not going away any time soon. What this means, is a win-win situation for everyone. It means a level playing field, with open standards. It means content can be consumed on your CHOICE of platform; as a consumer, you aren't locked in to one particular OS or Browser vendor. This is one of those rare times when the consumer forces the hand of big business, and wins. It's a good thing!




RE: Yes, we are
By stephenbrooks on 3/10/2012 12:21:56 PM , Rating: 2
The problem right now is that the "level playing field, with open standards" part of your plan is missing. Some platforms go out of their way to be incompatible and difficult to port from other platforms.


RE: Yes, we are
By Argon18 on 3/11/2012 11:01:55 PM , Rating: 2
If by "some platforms" you mean Microsoft, then yes, I agree. All unix's, including Linux, are POSIX compliant these days. That means its a snap to port a piece of software from one to the other, usually requiring little more than a re-compile. Microsoft is not compatible with anything, except for itself. It's the only one that stands out amongst all modern OS's, as going out of its way to be incompatible with the world. This holds true even for their server products; Exchange is not a standards compliant mail server - it implements broken proprietary Microsoft versions of SMTP and IMAP, not the published standards. Integrating it with standards-compliant systems is a nightmare.


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