Microsoft's retiring chief software architect has left a farewell note that will make uncomfortable reading for his colleagues, as it outlines his vision of a post-PC future to which the company will have to adapt or die.
Ray Ozzie, who announced his intention to step down earlier this month, sent a memo to Microsoft staff summarising the progress Microsoft has made over the past five years in areas such as cloud computing and online services, but warned that even greater change will come in future.
In the memo, which he posted to his public blog, Ozzie claimed that some of the changes he initiated when he was appointed chief software architect five years ago have so far remained elusive.
"In the realm of the service-centric ‘seamless OS’ we’re well on the path to having Windows Live serve as an optional yet natural services complement to the Windows and Office software," he commented.
However, Ozzie also pointed out that "certain competitors" moved faster than Microsoft, and that their execution "surpassed our own in mobile experiences, in the seamless fusion of hardware and software and services, and in social networking & myriad new forms of internet-centric social interaction".
Much of Microsoft's revenue still revolves around the PC and two products in particular: Windows and Office. Yet Ozzie pointed out that changes are coming that could see the decline of the traditional computer, with its applications and document files that are stored locally.
"We’re moving toward a world of 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 wrote.
Many of these changes are already happening and readily apparent to observers of the IT industry, but Ozzie warned that the consequences are likely to be more far-reaching than many people expect.
"In the short term, this means imagining the ‘killer apps and services’ and ‘killer devices’ that match up to a broad range of customer needs as they’ll evolve in this new era," he said, adding that "tomorrow’s experiences and solutions are likely to differ significantly even from today’s most successful apps".
Ozzie warned that the next five years will see big shifts occurring that will prove to be a "great opportunity for those who put past technologies and successes into perspective," and said that Microsoft needs to "fearlessly embrace that which is technologically inevitable".
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