As he gets ready to head out the door at Microsoft sometime in the coming weeks, Ray Ozzie is offering up sweeping thoughts on how the company should move forward into the coming decade.
"Let there be no doubt that the big shifts occurring over the next five years ensure that this will absolutely be a time of great opportunity for those who put past technologies & successes into perspective, and envision all the transformational value that can be offered moving forward to individuals, businesses, governments and society," Ozzie wrote in a blog post titled "Dawn of a New Day." The post is written as a memo to "Executive Staff and direct reports."
Five years ago this week, Ozzie put a stamp on his then new role at Microsoft with a similarly big-picture essay known as "The Internet Services Disruption" memo. That quickly became the inspiration for several of Microsoft's products, including Windows Live and Windows Azure.
In the new memo, posted to the newly launched "ray ozzie's blog," Ozzie urges the company to keep up its forward momentum and not hold too tightly to a past that was defined in large part by Microsoft's software for the PC.
"As Microsoft has done so successfully over the course of the company's history," he writes, "let's mark this five-year milestone by once again fearlessly embracing that which is technologically inevitable."
Some of those successes, Ozzie writes, include delivering a "seamless OS" that uses Windows Live "as an optional, yet natural services complement to the Windows and Office software." He cites Office 365 and "our 2010 Office" as components in the company's "seamless productivity." And in the "seamless entertainment" space, Ozzie believes "Xbox Live has transformed Xbox into a real-time, social, media-rich TV experience."
But Ozzie is also fully aware of the mistakes Microsoft has made over the past few years. He said that the "early and clear vision" of some of Microsoft's competitors has helped those companies get ahead of the software giant "in mobile experiences, in the seamless fusion of hardware and software and services, and in social networking and myriad new forms of Internet-centric social interaction."
The next five years will present "another inflection point" presenting yet more opportunities, Ozzie writes.
"We're moving toward a world of 1) cloud-based continuous services that connect us all and do our bidding, and 2) appliance-like connected devices enabling us to interact with those cloud-based services," he writes. He continues:
At first blush, this world of continuous services and connected devices doesn't seem very different than today. But those who build, deploy and manage today's websites understand viscerally that fielding a truly continuous service is incredibly difficult and is only achieved by the most sophisticated high-scale consumer websites. And those who build and deploy application fabrics targeting connected devices understand how challenging it can be to simply & reliably just 'sync' or 'stream'. To achieve these seemingly simple objectives will require dramatic innovation in human interface, hardware, software and services.
Meanwhile, the PC-centric, client/server world has "accreted simply immense complexity over the past quarter century. To which he adds a warning: "Complexity kills. Complexity sucks the life out of users, developers and IT. Complexity makes products difficult to plan, build, test and use. Complexity introduces security challenges. Complexity causes administrator frustration."
That's exactly why Microsoft must "form a realistic picture of what a post-PC world might look like, if it were to ever truly occur." He writes that "those who can envision a plausible future that's brighter than today will earn the opportunity to lead."
He went on to say that the industry is on a path toward "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." And although he believes that continuous services and connected devices could lead the "next wave of industry reconfiguration," it could take a while before the industry fully embraces them. But, Ozzie said, "it will."
And despite economic and other insecurities of the present day, Ozzie expresses optimism: "I see a great, expansive future for our industry and for our company."