26 January 2009

I'm catching up on some of my reading (more on that later). I was reading the December issue of WIRED. I don't envy Ray Ozzie his situation. He's the new chief software architect at Microsoft (taking over Bill's job). Questions need to be asked about whether Microsoft's viability is certain. Ozzie is himself a wunderkind that Bill Gates hs called the "one of the top five programmers in the universe". Certainly,the proof is in the pudding. He invented Lotus Notes based on the research and learning environment Plato (see this good article ), which he tinkered with during his college years. As an aside, I note that the WIRED article attributes Price Waterhouse's purchase of Notes as a turning point for Ozzie and his work one that eventually made it attractive to IBM, which then bought Lotus two years later. My mother worked at Price Waterhouse during that time, and I remember her having this incredible workgroup software on her laptop. It was only later that I'd understand how powerful it was. Now, Ozzie isn't just changing the face of office workgroups, he's chaning the landscape of the computer desktop in general, and he's got to do it through Windows and Office.

He's come on strong. In 2005 he wrote, and with Bill Gates, sent a memo to high level executives at Microsoft whose purpose was two-fold: evaluate the current situation and landscape and map out what the future holds. He was writing on he money in describing the next computing platform as a cloud based paradigm. The latest and greatest out of Redmond confirms this. A lot of the stuff that was supposed to be in Vista, including a cohesive service-oriented platform, seems to be present in this new version of Windows, Windows Azure. It seeks to make the internet as much a fiber of the next generation of applications as an operating system's kernel is today.

He's also previewed the cloud-friendly version of Office. For a good review, check out this MSDN webcast. The cloud-friendly Office -- honestly, Linux and Java zealot that I am -- looks really cool. The idea is that you can drift between the web, the web, and the mobile version of the client. Finally, communal workflows are supported natively -- they're showcasing examples where somebody makes a change in a thick client and that change is propogated instantly to the ajax version of a document. I'd love to see how that particular ESB's being secured. I wonder if it's channeled centrally through Microsoft's servers, or if it's installable on the client's servers? I know they mentioned Sharepoint, but I genuinely hope they don't compel users to buy that whole boondoggle of a stack just to get the integration features. 'Sides, what am I griping about? And, really, perhaps I'm not their customer anyway. I'm using OpenOffice and Google Docs to write this.

But the question is -- is it too late? Google Docs is already thoroughly entrenched, and even Apple's iWork /iLife suite are in the cloud already. iTunes, the number one music application and service by far, has been a thick-client/cloud hybrid since day one, and has been doing it successfully. Even infrastructure has successfully, and comercially, been made available through services like Google's App Engine and Amazon EC2. The list goes on and on (photo albums, email, etc.) for all the things Microsoft might do that it doesn't do. It seems like the only thing they have left, realistically, is the operating system itself. And in this respect, perhaps Windows Azure is viabe. After all, I haven't yet heard about a cloud-oriented version of OS X or Linux, though I'm not sure what makes Azure cloud-friendly in the first place.

Perhaps he can turn the ship around. So far, I'm impressed with what I've seen. What, exaclty, does "success" look like for Microsoft, though?