Microsoft faces a "post-PC" world, departing Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie claims in a blog posting. Does this put Windows at risk of death?
Microsoft could find itself in a dire position unless it corrects course,
seems to be one of the messages in departing Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie's
much-publicized Oct. 28 blog
. The solution, he wrote, will involve "embracing that which is
technologically inevitable"-a future of varied devices connected to the
Across the blogosphere, Ozzie's posting has sparked discussion over why he
chose to leave Microsoft at such a critical inflection point. Several
high-ranked executives have departed Redmond over the past year, either in
pursuit of better opportunities (e.g., Microsoft Business Division President
Stephen Elop taking the CEO reins at Nokia)
or likely in the wake of internal strife (e.g., Entertainment & Devices
Division President Robbie Bach's retirement following the Kin phones debacle).
But Ozzie falls into neither of those clear-cut categories, making his decision
all the more mysterious to outsiders.
In his blog posting, Ozzie
hints at Microsoft's falling behind in key areas
, particularly smartphones.
"Certain of our competitors' products and their rapid advancement and
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 seamless fusion of hardware and software and
services, and in social networking and myriad new forms of Internet-centric
Translation: Windows Phone 7 needs to be a hit, or else Google Android and
the Apple iPhone will continue to dominate the consumer mobile space.
Ozzie's view then shifts from mobility to the emerging cloud-based paradigm,
which also threatens many businesses' current models.
"Organizations worldwide, in every industry, are now stepping back and
re-thinking the basics; questioning their most fundamental structural tenets,"
Ozzie added. "Doing so is necessary for their long-term growth and
survival. And our own industry is no exception, where we must question our most
fundamental assumptions about infrastructure and apps."
Translation: The "PC-centric/server-centric" paradigm, which
allowed Microsoft to become one of the dominant tech companies of its era, is
in decline. Before its inevitable fall into the trash can of tech history,
however, that paradigm begat users with an enormously complex-and
confusing-array of interlocking products.
"Success begets product requirements. And even when superhuman
engineering and design talent is applied, there are limits to how much you can
apply beautiful veneers before inherent complexity is destined to bleed
through," Ozzie wrote. "Complexity kills." It is also, he adds a
few paragraphs later, "inescapable" as products mature.
"But as long as customer or competitive requirements drive teams to
build layers of new function on top of a complex core, ultimately a limit will
be reached." At that point, "Fragility can grow to constrain agility.
Some deep architectural strengths can before irrelevant-or worse, become
Ozzie seems to be asking his soon-to-be-former company, whose fortunes
continue in large part to ride on a famously complex operating system, how it
will adapt to a paradigm that embraces simplicity. In his estimation, the
future will be one of "continuous services" connected via the cloud
to "connected devices" available in "a breathtaking number of
shapes and sizes, tuned for a broad variety of communications, creation and
Translation: Microsoft needs to adapt as well, or risk being left behind.
Ozzie's blog posting, however, fails to address directly how the company's
flagship products-i.e., Windows-will need to change in order to meet this