Now that the Vista and Office 2007 delay is old news, every corner of the tech industry is speculating about the meaning of the Microsoft reorganization. It's basically people shuffling, realigning existing players with Microsoft's evolving and restated mission, articulated most recently in Kevin Johnson's (co-president of Platforms & Services) note about the reorg. It's Microsoft turning the aircraft carrier around again, with a new formula to address the changing world: Windows Vista + Windows Live. Johnson's note listed the number one objective seamless experiences across client, server and services:
Software + Services: Position for the next wave of innovation relative to our vision for Windows Live. Ray Ozzie and I continue to work closely to advance the Live vision announced last November. End-to-end scenarios that enable seamless experiences across client, server, and services are critical for all customers, and Windows Vista + Windows Live begins to address this vision. Utilizing services as a distribution vehicle for user experiences enables us to embrace the concept of software + service and deliver innovation to market faster. Doing this requires us to think about the Windows Live platform as a key to the value proposition we deliver to developers. These changes provide clear connections with Ray and his team to help shape the Live platform, Live experiences and the marketing that supports Windows Live.
Ed Bott covers the reorg, as does Steve Gillmor, who said, "Office dead, rolled up in Windows. Windows now 'software-based services.' " It's the logical evolution for Microsoft, and was first publicly sketched out on November 1, 2005. "Live" everything to express a persistent Web connection--Windows Vista becomes Live Vista.
Bill Gates rolling out Microsoft Live principles, November 1, 2005
Ray Ozzie explaining Windows Live, November 1, 2005
The top executive, besides Johnson and the newly appointed SVP for Windows and Windows Live engineering Steven Sinofsky, leading Microsoft into the Software+Services/ Windows Vista + Windows Live era is Ray Ozzie, who holds one of the company's CTO titles. And, of course, Microsoft's chief software architect Bill Gates is deeply in the mix. If you add up all the Microsoft years among the group pictured below, you get 63, which includes one year for Ozzie, the lone outsider.
These veterans of the client/server PC days and before that era have a huge task ahead. There is a lot to sort out and milestones to hit (unlike Vista)--integrating offline and online, dealing with resource allocation, revving at different twitch cycles (as CEO Steve Ballmer likes to say), tweaking the business model, making progress with ads and search, and making the cultural shift to Live. Just moving the deck chairs around, as some described the reorg, clearly isn't going to be enough to shift the massive apparatus underpinning the company into a new gear.
But Microsoft goes through these kinds of major shifts every decade or so, and so far has managed to do more than survive. Most of the Redmond crew don't remember how IBM suffered at Microsoft's hands in an earlier generation, when Big Blue failed to see the future and Microsoft happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Many say that this 21st century Web era is different. Microsoft has never faced a Google or an environment in which paradigms are shifting rapidly left and right and Windows is less central to the personal computing equation. If you hear lots of grinding sounds coming from Redmond, you'll know that the oligarchs newly appointed to lead the charge haven't been able to shift the gear...