Ozzies Seamless Opportunities

Filling in the details of Microsoft's services game plan.

By now, "the Internet Services Disruption" missive from Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Ray Ozzie has been dissected ad infinitum. But we have yet to see Softies or Soft watchers attempt to put any real meat on Ozzies services bones.

Ozzie itemized several general categories of services into which he believes Microsoft should delve in the coming months and years. These include ad-supported, subscription-based, try-and-buy and portal-style services. In his much-analyzed memo, Ozzie also listed seven "opportunity" categories for these kinds of services.

If we were attempting to populate Ozzies opportunities matrix (consisting of seven "seamless" scenarios), this is where wed start:

1. Seamless OS. While Microsoft execs allegedly have considered making Windows itself available as a hosted service, such a scenario seems unlikely after reading Ozzies memo. Microsoft is looking for services to add to its cash cows, such as Windows and Office—rather than tinkering with its tried-and-true shrink-wrapped stalwarts. Were thinking that the long-rumored personal/small-business storage service would be a natural here.

2. Seamless communications. Remember Office InterConnect? The electronic-business-card application that Microsoft pioneered in Japan? Our Office "12" beta testers say that InterConnect could end up as an integrated part of Office 12 (at least the Japanese version). But Microsoft also could opt to make InterConnect a subscription service. We know wed be first in line for electronic business cards. And theres also the still-unannounced hosted Microsoft small-biz bundle, anchored by VOIP (voice over IP) and instant messaging, which will likely be one of the next communications services announced by the sleeping software giant.

3. Seamless productivity. We dont know exactly what Microsoft has in mind on the Office Live front. But company execs have dropped some strong hints. Remember those SharePoint application templates—things such as employee time sheets, legal-document workflow guidelines, meeting management apps—that the company quietly launched late this summer? Were betting these 30 or so applets will be offered as hosted, subscription-based services for companies. Were also betting a little-known, internally developed and deployed Microsoft application known as ManagePoint could be another of the hosted productivity apps in Microsofts pipeline.

4. Seamless entertainment. We all know Microsofts Xbox Live subscription gaming service is the model in this category (as well as in the other six scenarios that Ozzie outlined). But there are myriad opportunities for other Microsoft home-mobile services, too. How about gaming services on cell phones? What about the expected Microsoft Music subscription service? The aforementioned hosted backup and restore service also could be marketed as a home entertainment type of offering.

5. Seamless marketplace. Were expecting Microsoft to field some kind of hosted and/or subscription-based AdCenter offering for folks who dont want to manage their own advertising, lead generation, etc. Theres no way that Microsoft is going to leave the online classified market to Google. There has to be a Google Base competitor in Microsofts lineup. (Microsoft "Fremont," anyone?)

6. Seamless solutions. Microsoft wants to extend services to more than just Windows, Office and the Xbox. No doubt we will see entities such as Microsoft CRM Live, Dynamics ERP Live and Visual Studio Live. But these wont be hosted versions of Microsofts business and developer products. We bet well see more try-and-buy offerings here. Rent a telemarketer. Rent a compiler for a day, week or month. Have Microsoft provide testing, debugging and security checks on your software.

7. Seamless IT. This is the managed services bucket. Microsoft has been piloting a sample desktop management service, code-named Energizer. And officials, prior to the Ozzie call to action, also hinted that a managed Exchange service could be part of the mix, too. ´

Mary Jo Foley keeps a constant eye on Microsoft at her Microsoft-watch.com site.