Ozzie's 'Doomsday' Memo Warns Microsoft of Post-PC Days

Departing Microsoft exec Ray Ozzie has issued a communique expanding on his 2005 call for Microsoft to jump on the cloud or perish.

By Gregg Keizer
Tue, October 26, 2010

Computerworld — Departing Microsoft (MSFT) executive Ray Ozzie's just-published memo is a "doomsday-ish" missive that calls on the company to push further into the cloud or perish, an industry analyst said today.

Is Ozzie's Exit Good or Bad for Microsoft in Cloud Race?

Ozzie, who replaced Bill Gates as Microsoft's chief software architect in 2006, is leaving the company , although Microsoft has not disclosed the date of his departure.

His "Dawn of a New Day" memorandum, which was dated Oct. 28, is an attempt to focus Microsoft's attention on the day when PCs no longer rule consumer or business computing, said Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, the Kirkland, Wash. research firm that specializes in tracking Microsoft.

Miller worked for Microsoft from 1998 to 2004, in both the MSN and Windows groups.

"If you do a tag cloud of the memo, you'll see he rarely mentions the words 'PC' or 'Windows,'" said Miller, talking about the visual representation of a document's or Web site's content. "The words that are most prominent are 'devices' and 'services,' and shows that Ozzie believes the future will revolve around connected devices and continuous services."

In a nutshell, continued Miller, Ozzie's memo spells out the time when the PC -- the foundation of Microsoft's 35-year-old business, particularly its lucrative Windows franchise -- has been replaced by a slew of simple, low-cost devices that are constantly connected to the Internet, and through that, to cloud-based services.

"There's one key difference in tomorrow's devices," wrote Ozzie. "They're relatively simple and fundamentally appliance-like by design, from birth. They're instantly usable, interchangeable, and trivially replaceable without loss."

The communique is in many ways reminiscent of the one Ozzie published in 2005 shortly after joining Microsoft, in which he warned that the firm needed to jump on the cloud. And it's a continuation of what he's tried to do at Microsoft since.

"Ray has become synonymous with connected collaboration and the cloud," Miller argued, citing Azure as Ozzie's biggest success at Microsoft. "He's fought the valiant fight at Microsoft, but he's saying the company needs to continue investing in the cloud."

While Ozzie acknowledged rivals' successes in moving toward his world view, he didn't name names. "Our early and clear vision notwithstanding, their execution has surpassed our own in mobile experiences, in the seamless fusion of hardware & software & services, and in social networking & myriad new forms of Internet-centric social interaction," Ozzie said.

He didn't have to use the words "Apple" or "Google (GOOG)" or "Facebook" to get his message across to Microsoft's executives, said Miller. "They know who he's talking about."

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