Ray Ozzie's ambitious plan to revitalise Microsoft's software, beef up its services, and kick seven bells out of Google.
Ozzie rules: The 'software plus services' vision
Nearly five years ago Ozzie, then Microsoft's newly minted CTO, issued a memo outlining his vision of the next step in the company's ongoing evolution.
"[People are] increasingly drawn toward the simplicity of services and service-enabled software that 'just works,'" he said.
"Businesses are considering what services-based economics of scale might do to help them reduce infrastructure costs or deploy solutions as-needed and on subscription basis."
In other words, Ozzie felt it was high time for Microsoft to compete with Google on its home turf.
But in Ozzie's vision, Microsoft would embrace the web differently from the search titan.
While Google sees the browser as the ultimate client UI for software large and small, with the cloud as the ultimate repository for all data, Ozzie sees an opportunity for Microsoft to offer services that augment and enhance traditional desktop software.
Where Google sees thin clients interfacing with powerful applications, Ozzie sees rich client applications consuming lightweight services.
That's no surprise. Before joining Microsoft, Ozzie built a career on the concept that a PC and a network together are greater than the sum of their parts.
In the mid-1980s, Ozzie and his company Iris Associates developed the networked groupware platform that became Lotus Notes.
He then went on to found Groove Networks, a maker of peer-to-peer collaboration software, after Lotus was acquired by IBM in 1994. When Microsoft acquired Groove in 2005, Ozzie came along for the ride.
Reaching for the clouds
Today, Ozzie is leading Microsoft's 36,000 developers in a multipronged effort to reboot Redmond for the cloud computing era.
His plan includes free, ad-supported services for consumers; hosted 'software as a service' (SaaS) for businesses; tight integration of services with desktop software; and new platforms to allow Microsoft's vast developer community to build web applications and services of their own.
The plan got off to a slow start. For much of Ozzie's early tenure, Microsoft's developers were embroiled with Office 2007, Windows Vista, and Windows 7.
But behind the scenes, Microsoft was restructuring its product groups and assembling teams to put Ozzie's services-oriented vision in motion.
As a result, Office 2010, due later this year, will be a milestone for two reasons: alongside Windows 7, it will complete the upgrade cycle of Microsoft's flagship products.
More important, it will be the first major salvo in Ray Ozzie's ‘software plus services' assault against Google.
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