March 11, 2005 11:13 AM PST
Newsmaker: Ozzie wants a 'unified story' at MicrosoftSee all Newsmakers
Ozzie and Microsoft's top brass on Thursday announced the sale of Groove Networks to the software giant. As part of the deal, Ozzie--the founder of Groove and the inventor of Lotus Notes--will become one of Microsoft's three chief technical officers. The acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter.
The move seems to fit a pattern in Ozzie's career: He started Iris Associates in 1984 to make Notes. Iris was sold to Lotus, which was later acquired by IBM. In 1997, Ozzie founded Groove and closely aligned his work with that of Microsoft, a Groove investor, all of which makes the acquisition no great surprise to industry watchers.
Ozzie has been one the most influential programmers working with collaboration software for information workers. The Groove software, therefore, will be sold as a component of Microsoft's Office lineup of productivity applications. And as a Microsoft CTO, Ozzie thinks he can make his mark in both Office and Windows.
He spoke to CNET News.com about his upcoming role at Microsoft and about how he hopes to influence the software giant's future direction.
Why did you sell Groove to Microsoft?
Ozzie: From my standpoint, I build software to have a big impact on customers--that's the point of all this. Looking at my past, I was really happy when Notes was able to scale up because of pouring in resources of a larger company (IBM).
In the case of Groove, Microsoft's position across a number of markets--enterprise, government and particularly small business--there's a lot of opportunity we never could have achieved.
As a Microsoft chief technology officer, will you remain focused on collaboration? Chairman Bill Gates mentioned some other areas--such as authentication, encryption and peer-to-peer--where you could contribute. Do you want to reach beyond the Office group and make an impact on the operating system and perhaps other areas?
Ozzie: Certainly beyond Office. Most of what I do and have done to date in my whole career has been focused on what Microsoft refers to as "information work." And the majority of the products in that realm are in (group vice president) Jeff Raikes' Information Worker group. But there are pieces that are not, like Exchange--that's part of the Windows organization.
I think everyone would like a unified story and deliverables to support those across the organization. There are aspects of what we built, however, that have a platform flavor to them.
I think what Bill is referring to is that some of those technologies, particularly security, have more general applicability than the general collaboration offerings. It's too soon to know or discuss what the specific impact will be, but I will be working with the platform group to see (how) those things that we've done can be generalized.
Can you give me an idea of what a more peer-to-peer, savvy operating system might do?
Ozzie: Let me do that by a simple example. One of the functions of the current Groove offerings is a thing we refer to is as Groove Folder Synchronization. Right from the Windows Explorer on any folder, you
From the user's perspective, that's integrated into the operating system. And that's natural for people. I can't comment on where things will go in the future, but from a user's perspective how these technologies (are) applied at the operating system can be very useful.
Do you think your role as one of the company's three chief technology officers is very well-defined right now?
Ozzie: The funny thing is that it's not well-defined, from the ability to explain it, but I know exactly what they want me to do.
Having dealt with Microsoft for a number of years, I'm very familiar with their organization, and how decisions are made, and how things are built and get shipped. I think we both have specific ideas about how I can help to make a positive impact.
It's not as easy to explain, and as with any complex environment, you can oversimplify. That's why even if you look at the press release, it says "responsibility to influence the communications and collaboration offerings" and so on. There's a lot in those words. Because you don't
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