Microsoft's Next Big Thing

Craig Mundie, 59, is Microsoft Corp.'s chief research and strategy officer. He assumed his position as chief visionary in June 2008 after Bill Gates retired from day-to-day operations at the company.

By Robert L. Mitchell
Tue, March 17, 2009
Page 3

None of those [problems] exist in Internet access to that media. There's no limit on shelf space, you can have as much differentiation as you want, there's no rigorous timetable that you have to watch in prime time. So many of the things people covet in their entertainment experience, they can get today in what people call "over the top" or over the IP network access to the media. I think of it as the contemporary surrogate for free-to-air television.

What is your proudest R&D achievement? I did a lot of the early work broadly in non-PC-based computing. All of the things that we have today that have matured into our game console business, our cell phone business and our Windows CE-based, Windows Embedded and Windows Mobile capabilities all started in the groups I formed here between 1992 and 1998.

I look at the progress we've made there and I take quite a bit of pride in the fact that we anticipated those things and we were able to get into so many of them. The company's strategy all along was to recognize that, ultimately, people would have many smart devices, and we wanted to be the company that would have some cohesive way of dealing with all of them. There's still work to be done, but nobody else has invested to have a position in so many of the devices that are now important to people.

You talk about technology waves. What will be the next big wave? What happens in waves is the shift from one generation of computing platform to the next. That platform gets established by a small number of killer apps. We've been through a number of these major platform shifts, from the mainframe to the minicomputer to the personal computer to adding the Internet as an adjunct platform. We're now trending to the next big platform, which I call "the client plus the cloud."

That's one thing, not two things. Today, we've got a broadening out of what people call the client. My 16 years here was in large measure about that. And then we introduced the network. The Internet was a place where you had Web content and Web publishing, but other than being delivered on some of those clients, the two things were somewhat divorced.

The next thing that will emerge is an architecture that allows the application developer to think of the cloud plus the client architecturally as a single thing. In a sense, it is like client/sever computing in the enterprise. It was the homogeneity that existed between some of the facilities at the server and the client end that allowed people to build those applications. We've never had that kind of architectural homogeneity in this cloud-plus-client or Internet-plus-smart-devices world, and I'm predicting that will be the next big thing.

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