Microsoft's Ray Ozzie Imagines Post-PC World

In a valedictory memo, Microsoft's departing chief software architect highlights his company's successes and its challenges as cloud services become more important.
Ray Ozzie is relinquishing his role as chief software architect at Microsoft and to mark the occasion he has published a memo outlining the changes that have occurred at the company since he took the reins handed to him by Bill Gates.

It's Ozzie's second public memo about Microsoft's challenges. Titled Dawn of a New Day, it has Apple written all over it, though Apple is not mentioned by name. The first, The Internet Services Disruption, published in October, 2005, outlined a strategy for Microsoft to compete more effectively with the likes of Google.

As Ozzie sees it, Microsoft has largely succeeded in making its transition to cloud-based services. He points to Windows Live as an online complement to the company's Windows and Office software, to Office's transition from the desktop to the Web and mobile devices through Office 365, 2010 Office, SharePoint and Live services. Windows Azure & SQL Azure, he says, is young but a promising foundation for Microsoft's services platform. And he expresses satisfaction with how far Bing and related advertising efforts have come.

Ozzie also lauds Microsoft for its progress in the area of responsible competition, through commitments to allow third parties to access Windows services in the same way that Microsoft can access those services, for example.

Yet, Ozzie acknowledges that Microsoft has not taken advantage of some opportunities and remains behind in some areas. "Certain of our competitors' products and their rapid advancement & refinement of new usage scenarios have been quite noteworthy," he wrote. "Our early and clear vision notwithstanding, their execution has surpassed our own in mobile experiences, in the seamless fusion of hardware & software & services, and in social networking & myriad new forms of Internet-centric social interaction."

Ozzie is speaking mainly of Apple, which seems to have done everything right in terms of the mobile experience and the fusion of hardware, software, and services. He could also be said to be speaking about Google and Android, but the energy behind Android has come more from Google's carrier and handset partners than anything else. Those aspects of Android under Google's control, such as the Nexus One and the Android Market, have had their problems. Google has bankrolled and engineered Android, but it's only a foundation at the moment, not a runaway revenue success story like the iPhone.

Certainly, there's some Google-angst in Ozzie's acknowledgment of the rapid advancement of new usage scenarios. But the swift development of Google Apps and Google's enterprise business hasn't really taken a bite out of Microsoft's bottom line yet. Microsoft's journey with Windows, SharePoint, and Office isn't nearly as steep as the hill it will have to climb with Windows Phone 7.

In addition to his wistful acknowledgment of missed opportunities, Ozzie muses about what the post-PC world will look like. He foresees "cloud-based continuous services that connect us all and do our bidding" and "appliance-like connected devices enabling us to interact with those cloud-based services."

He says today's devices are just the beginning. The gadgets of tomorrow will be "connected companions" that understand where we are and what's going on around us.

"It's the dawn of a new day -- the sun having now arisen on a world of continuous services and connected devices," he concludes.

For Apple and perhaps Google, the time is more like noon.