Departing Microsoft visionary Ray Ozzie sees "post-PC" world

SEATTLE Tue Oct 26, 2010 12:29pm BST

Chief Software Architect at Microsoft Ray Ozzie speaks at the 2008 Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles October 27, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Chief Software Architect at Microsoft Ray Ozzie speaks at the 2008 Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles October 27, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser

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SEATTLE (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp's resident visionary and departing software chief has urged the company to move on from its Windows and Office roots and imagine a "post-PC world" of simple, global Web devices.

Five years after Ray Ozzie made his mark with his "Internet Services Disruption" memo -- regarded as Microsoft's manifesto for Internet-based "cloud computing" -- he is again calling on the software giant to envision a future where simplicity is key.

Ozzie's emotional call to arms comes alongside what some analysts say is a watershed moment for the third largest company on the Standard & Poor's 500, which in November will see the first of a new generation of smartphones driven by its operating system hit store shelves, in a belated attempt to become a major player again in the booming wireless devices market.

"Let's mark this 5-year milestone by once again fearlessly embracing that which is technologically inevitable," Ozzie said in a personal blog post addressed to executive staff and direct reports.

"The next five years will bring about yet another inflection point -- a transformation that will once again yield unprecedented opportunities for our company and our industry catalyzed by the huge and inevitable shift in apps and infrastructure that's truly now just begun."

That world, Ozzie argues, will be one where users access always-available services through "devices that are fundamentally appliance-like by design, from birth. They're instantly usable, interchangeable and trivially replaceable without loss."

The call from Ozzie, who announced his retirement from Microsoft last week, is meant to galvanize the company, which has fallen behind Apple Inc and Google Inc in the rapidly growing phone and tablet computer sector and has been surprised by phenomenon such as social network Facebook.

"Close our eyes and form a realistic picture of what a post-PC world might actually look like, if it were to ever truly occur," wrote Ozzie in a memo posted on his personal blog on Monday. "Those who can envision a plausible future that's brighter than today will earn the opportunity to lead." (To read Ozzie's blog post, click here link.reuters.com/nam22q)

DISRUPTION AGAIN

Shortly after joining Microsoft, Ozzie wrote his now famous "Internet Services Disruption" memo in which he evangelized now-common cloud computing, where data and software are supplied over the Internet rather than installed on machines.

In Monday's blog, Ozzie said some of the goals he envisioned five years ago "remain elusive and are yet to be realized."

He goes on to praise competitors for "seamless fusion of hardware and software and services," which appears to be a nod to Apple's iPhone and Google's Android phone system and application marketplaces, which are proving more popular with consumers than Microsoft's own offerings.

"Their execution has surpassed our own in mobile experiences," said Ozzie.

Microsoft's new phone software will be available on handsets in the United States next month and a slew of Windows-powered tablet devices are expected next year.

Instead of a tech world founded on PCs and software -- which Microsoft's Windows operating system and Office suite of programs essentially created -- Ozzie urges Microsoft to think about "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."

Such devices could be at home, in the car, controlling elevators or highways, said Ozzie.

"Today's PC's, phones and pads are just the very beginning," said Ozzie. "We'll see decades to come of incredible innovation from which will emerge all sorts of 'connected companions' that we'll wear, we'll carry, we'll use on our desks and walls and the environment all around us."

If accurate, that represents a long-term threat to Microsoft, whose core Windows and Office units make up more than half of the company's $62 billion annual sales and 80 percent of its operating profit.

Ozzie, 54, is working on some of Microsoft's entertainment projects before retiring from the company in several months. He took over the role of Chief Software Architect from co-founder Bill Gates in 2006.

Gates started the tradition of the "call to action" internal memo, his most widely read being the "Internet Tidal Wave" memo in 1995, which urged the company to put the Web at the center of all its efforts.

Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said there are no plans to appoint a new chief software architect when Ozzie retires.

(Editing by Edwin Chan, Andre Grenon and Richard Chang)

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