Last week, Ray Ozzie announced he was taking his cloud and heading out the door. This week he shared his final advice for those he was leaving behind--a long memo for the Microsoft minions with the parting shot that it was time to go cloud or go home. There is no future on the desktop or even PCs for that matter.
The memo rambles a bit, but it's his swan song to the Microsoft staff, so I guess you can forgive the guy for going overboard and trying to put his contribution in historical context.
One thing he doesn't mention in the memo is his own background which has always been fully focused on collaboration first with Lotus Notes, then with Groove Networks and finally as the architect of the Microsoft cloud vision.
Ozzie rightly points out that as the Windows client-server model has evolved, it has grown increasingly complex, some would say to the point of absurdity. It requires training to use the client stuff and huge IT staffs to maintain the server side. As he says quite eloquently:
Complexity kills. Complexity sucks the life out of users, developers and IT. Complexity makes products difficult to plan, build, test and use. Complexity introduces security challenges. Complexity causes administrator frustration.
Can't argue with that, but he goes onto say the cloud foundation he laid at Microsoft represents in absolute terms where Microsoft needs to go to be a successful company. That means providing the means to connect devices and services in a simple way.
The mobile-cloud future is not a pie in the sky (pun intended) fantasy. It exists today and enables us to share our online lives across devices via the cloud. It shouldn't matter whether I'm on my smart phone, my iPad or my computer (or even a computer or device I don't normally access). My content should be syncing automatically all the time across all of these devices and the cloud is the glue that holds this vision together.
Ozzie goes on to suggest a world where there are no PCs, at least as we've known them, and when you look at the iPad and the coming generation of tablets and the increasing sophistication of the smart phones we hold in our pockets, it's hard not to agree with him.
Is Microsoft ready for this post-desktop device-dominated world? Not by a long shot. Ozzie will walk out that door and his cleary-eyed cloud blueprint will walk away with him. Microsoft is a conflicted company. On one hand it sees the need to move forward beyond desktop computer software to Ozzie's all-connected all-the-time vision, but with so much invested in the desktop, it is caught between two worlds.
It's time for Microsoft to grasp Ozzie's cloud vision fully with all of its heart and considerable resources, but I'm not convinced that's going to happen.
Ozzie's going to leave and the Desktop drums will beat ever louder. The Cloud will continue to get limited attention, but it's going to need a strong leader to push it to the forefront of the corporate conversation moving forward, and without someone like Ozzie, it's hard to see how that will happen.
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