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Ray Ozzie’s Last Memo

by Neil MacDonald  |  October 26, 2010  |  1 Comment

In 2005, Ray Ozzie penned his famous memo in which he laid out the challenge for Microsoft as it entered the era of cloud-based services. I interviewed Ray Ozzie to discuss Microsoft’s cloud strategy in detail in this 2009 Gartner research document.

Last week, Ray Ozzie announced he was leaving Microsoft. Yesterday, Ray’s last memo to the Microsoft staff was released.

Ray doesn’t expand oh his motivations for leaving Microsoft, but he does state that despite all that Microsoft had accomplished in the cloud, part of his vision was still unfulfilled:

Yet, for all our great progress, some of the opportunities I laid out in my memo five years ago remain elusive and are yet to be realized.

In the memo, Ray talks extensively about the “post-PC” era and the need for Microsoft to remain relevant in a world of continuous services and connected devices. He hints that Microsoft’s greatest strength in its PC ecosystem and breadth of legacy application support within Windows has become a liability, stating:

But so long as customer or competitive requirements drive teams to build layers of new function on top of a complex core, ultimately a limit will be reached.  Fragility can grow to constrain agility.  Some deep architectural strengths can become irrelevant – or worse, can become hindrances

Ray states that the future lies in simpler, appliance-like devices – pretty much the antithesis of Windows in its current form. My favorite section was this one (which Ray has stated before, but it always rings true to me):

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.

In my opinion, instead of a “PC on every desktop”, Microsoft’s replacement vision should be “A Microsoft experience on every device” – a vision which must include rich services and experiences for heterogeneous mobile devices (which may or may not include a PC or Windows).

Mobile Office and Live Messenger on Android? Sure, why not?

And, instead of a “one size fits all” approach for Windows, the next version Windows becomes much more modular based on a lightweight common mirokernel which could be adapted to the function desired – including serving as the foundation for the next generation of a Windows Phone.

We asked Steve Ballmer about the impact of Ray Ozzie’s departure on Microsoft’s Cloud strategy in our interview (unfortunately, the clip doesn’t include the question on Ray) on the main stage of Symposium last week. Steve reiterated that Microsoft was “all in” with the Cloud and that Ray’s vision was now embedded within every manager within the Microsoft organization and had moved beyond a single individual. That’s true, but who within Microsoft is looking at what’s next with Cloud? Call it “Cloud 2.0” if you will. Who will fill this visionary role?

Overall, the memo is upbeat and ends on an inspirational note:

And so, as Microsoft has done so successfully over the course of the company’s history, let’s mark this five-year milestone by once again fearlessly embracing that which is technologically inevitable – clearing a path to the extraordinary opportunity that lies ahead for us, for the industry, and for our customers.

I highly recommend you take a read of the entire text.

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Category: cloud  microsoft  windows-7  

Tags: microsoft  reducing-complexity  windows  

Neil MacDonald
VP & Gartner Fellow
15 years at Gartner
25 years IT industry

Neil MacDonald is a vice president, distinguished analyst and Gartner Fellow in Gartner Research. Mr. MacDonald is a member of Gartner's information security and privacy research team, focusing on operating system and application-level security strategies. Specific research areas include Windows security…Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Ray Ozzie’s Last Memo

  1. Brian Hellauer says:

    You can see the entire interview here (registration required):

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