In a lengthy state-of-the-company report, Microsoft’s Ray Ozzie recapped the software giant’s accomplishments in Web services, but also pointed out where the it has come up short. Ozzie, Microsoft’s chief software architect, announced his plans to retire from Microsoft, after a period of transition, earlier this month.
Ozzie criticized Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) execution in certain areas, crediting unnamed “competitors” in a not-so-subtle not to Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone and iPad, and possibly others.
“Certain of our competitors’ products and their rapid advancement and refinement of new usage scenarios have been quite noteworthy. Our early and clear vision notwithstanding, their execution has surpassed our own in mobile experiences, in the seamless fusion of hardware and software and services, and in social networking and myriad new forms of Internet-centric social interaction,” Ozzie said in the memo entitled “Dawn of a New Day,” posted on his personal blog.
Microsoft has had to scramble to overhaul its mobile product line in the face of Apple’s runaway success with the iPhone and iPad as well as the growing popularity of various Android-based devices.
Microsoft unveiled the first line of Windows Phone 7 devices earlier this month, and partner HP released a Windows 7-based tablet, the Slate 500, for enterprise users last week.
Among other achievements during his tenure, Ozzie touted Microsoft’s release of Office 365, 2010 Office, SharePoint and Live for moving the venerable Office suite from a set of PC-centric applications “toward now also robustly spanning the Web and mobile.”
On the services side, Ozzie said he “couldn’t be more proud of what’s emerged as Windows Azure and SQL Azure. Inspired by little more than a memo, a few decks and discussions, entrepreneurial leaders stepped up to build and deliver an innovative service that, while still nascent, will over time prove to be transformational for the company and the industry.”
Recalling what he said in a memo five years ago shortly after joining Microsoft, Ozzie warned that the company must be willing to respond to changes in the marketplace.
“But today, as I wrote five years ago, ‘Just as in the past, we must reflect upon what’s going on around us, and reflect upon our strengths, weaknesses and industry leadership responsibilities, and respond. As much as ever, it’s clear that if we fail to do so, our business as we know it is at risk,”‘ Ozzie wrote.
An early proponent of cloud computing, Ozzie isn’t wavering in his belief that cloud-based services are the future of IT.
“All these new services will be cloud-centric ‘continuous services’ built in a way that we can all rely upon,” Ozzie said. “As such, cloud computing will become pervasive for developers and IT — a shift that’ll catalyze the transformation of infrastructure, systems and business processes across all major organizations worldwide. And all these new services will work hand-in-hand with an unimaginably fascinating world of devices to come. Today’s PCs, phones and pads are just the very beginning; we’ll see decades to come of incredible innovation from which will emerge all sorts of ‘connected companions’ that we’ll wear, we’ll carry, we’ll use on our desks and walls and the environment all around us.”
He also expects new devices to take users well past what traditional input devices like keyboards offer today to “service-connected devices going far beyond just the ‘screen, keyboard and mouse’: humanly-natural ‘conscious’ devices that’ll see, recognize, hear and listen to you and what’s around you, that’ll feel your touch and gestures and movement, that’ll detect your proximity to others; that’ll sense your location, direction, altitude, temperature, heartbeat and health.”
Ozzie said development of this new service-connected world will be neither quick nor easy.
“But those who build, deploy and manage today’s websites understand viscerally that fielding a truly continuous service is incredibly difficult and is only achieved by the most sophisticated high-scale consumer websites. And those who build and deploy application fabrics targeting connected devices understand how challenging it can be to simply and reliably just ‘sync’ or ‘stream’. To achieve these seemingly simple objectives will require dramatic innovation in human interface, hardware, software and services,” he said.
David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.