Ray Ozzie’s Dawn of a New Day condensed

Microsoft’s soon to be ex-Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie is a great thinker. But he’s also very, very verbose, and his latest 3500-word memo called Dawn of a New Day is quite a bit to digest. Here’s my summary of it (plus a few comments).

First, Ozzie iterates things that have changed since his Internet Services Disruption memo five years ago. He claims that Microsoft has truly taken services seriously: the “all in” cloud mantra is actually reality. He feels that the Software + Services ideology is successfully demonstrated by Windows Live, Office 365 and Xbox Live. He also points out that Microsoft has succeeded in staying relevant with concerns such as low-cost notebooks, virtualization and increased openness particularly in the Office space.

Then, he goes on to list a bunch of changes for the last five years, mostly focusing on drastically increased connectivity and the hardware evolution that has brought computing to entirely new form factors. Also, he identifies mobile, “seamless fusion of hardware & software & services” and social media as fields where Microsoft has lost ground to its competitors. After that, it’s time to start threatening.

The Post-PC era

Ray reminds us that it’s almost 25 years from the launch of Windows 1.0. Windows, with all its problems, was iconic for bringing Personal Computers onto every desk. But Ozzie predicts that while we feel personal computing so strongly connected with the notion of current PCs, they must go. The complexity of hardware, software and data management “sucks the life out of users, developers and IT" – or in other words, “Fragility can grow to constrain agaility”.

Ozzie challenges Microsoft to stop and envision a world after the personal computer. He then postulates a future based on continuous services (applications and agents continously available on an unlimited scale) and connected devices (more appliance-like, ready-to-use when unwrapped, easily replaceable, with unlimited cloud-based storage and data capabilities).

He then goes on to paint a picture where these elements – the services and new kinds of devices – work together to solve quite a few utopian challenges on various fronts of society (from collaboration to health care, transportation to security and so on). He deduces that the next computing revolution must start from the point of simplicity, from natural device and media independence. Instead, applications will be centered on your data and social networks.

Finally, he urges Microsoft to once more embrace the unknown and emerge as a winner.

My view on Ray’s view

Given the number of referrals Dawn of a New Day has received, I would have expected it to be a more drastic memo. Coming from the guy who championed Live Mesh (which in its original PDC 2008 form was actually a rather relevant component of this vision!), the picture that DoaND painted wasn’t really a new one.

That said, it’s not a bad wake-up call… But it’s a reasonable theoretical one. Yet I admit it’s a hard problem: Thinking about and planning for the next revolution is, by definition, a challenging task. If I had to name a single task that would prepare anyone, not just Microsoft, for the future Ray envisioned, it would be this:

Develop cloud-backed applications and business for smartphones.

Not only will it make you face the technological limitations of smaller form factors, it will also bring experience of all the problems related to people actually using services on the go, micropayments, frequent device updates and so on. While that’s not the whole picture of Ray’s vision, it’s perhaps the most reachable, most practical training ground available today.

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November 1, 2010 · Jouni Heikniemi · One Comment
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  1. Heikniemi Hardcoded » New guidance: No more Silverlight for the web? - November 5, 2010

    [...] is this relevant? It is, because XAML has a far broader impact than HTML5. Even with Ray’s Post-PC vision, the full-blown PC is here for at least another ten years. If you want to build a rich UI on one of [...]

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