Knowledge@Wharton has an interview with Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie. He doesn't offer much in the way of new revelations about Microsoft strategy, but provide more nuance to the multi-headed vision that Microsoft General Manager of Platform Strategy Charles Fitzgerald discussed with me last week.
What struck me was Ozzie's praise of Adobe in the interview. It seemed that Ozzie expressed a bit of Adobe envy.
If anybody has a software and services model, it's Adobe, because of that rich [Flash Player] applet that they extend the browser with. The more they enhance that, as you can see in their Flex and Apollo plans, the more it becomes this unified software and service vision, which is basically the same as Microsoft's vision.
Adobe has the rich client (Flash) and is extending it out to be a platform that will compete Microsoft, specifically the platform-agnostic Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere (WPF/E).
Ozzie went on to say that Adobe, Microsoft and others might come from different places, but the endpoint will be the same.
...I don't see radical differences in the approaches that Adobe might be taking, that we're taking, or that the web industry in general is taking. The languages and run-times may be different. And we come at it from a history of the desktop coming up to the web. They are coming from a history of being on the web and going down to the desktop, but the endpoint is the same.
My fellow ZDNet blogger Ryan Stewart has a take on Ozzie's Wharton interview and WPF/E, calling it a "wildcard" for Microsoft. He expect we will hear much more about WPF/E at the MIX 07 conference at the beginning of May.
He explained his notion of disruptive innovation and creating usage-based scenarios rather than being dogmatic about browser-based and rich client-based applications.
So each group within Microsoft -- and in our industry -- is at a point where we should be saying, "If we're aspiring to deliver productivity to a customer, how should we best weave that into services that are deployed through a browser? What aspects do you want mobile? What kind of synchronization should automatically be built in? Should I use the camera in that mobile device to snap a picture of the white board and have it automatically go up to the service and integrate it with the other documents related to this meeting that I'm working on?"
In each solution within our business, the people who are running those businesses should look at their customers and say, "Given these new tools at my customers' disposal, how should we reshape this?" And I think that is potentially disruptive innovation in a positive way.
Regarding applications moving to the cloud, Ozzie stated:
I don't believe a single model is going to solve all problems. Computers within an enterprise, for example, are very tethered. In the enterprise model, it might be that running applications off a service with a high bandwidth connection to that desktop is the perfect thing. Some professionals are highly mobile and the best architecture for them is to have things delivered to a mobile device and replicated up to the service.
In the docs and spreadsheets realm, I believe there are certain uses of spreadsheets in particular, where the sharing model [enabled by] using it up on a service could be really useful. I think that there are other scenarios where you want it on your laptop. As a company, Microsoft views this as an opportunity -- to deliver the aggregate productivity value in all places.
Regarding Google, Ozzie said that Microsoft will take a different approach toward search than simply trying to copy Google's success.
History has shown that any time you have a fairly significant market leader, the best way of competing is not to just simply take the same approach. You have to find your own unique approach. And Microsoft has a number of different ways that we could do that because of the different touch points we have with the market and how people use our products.I don't doubt that Microsoft will compete well on the applications front with browser-based applications, rich clients and WPF/E, but the company has some serious work ahead if it wants to disrupt Google's efficient search and advertising model. A unique approach would have to be at least twice as good as Google's to have any impact.
Ozzie also discussed how competitive threats have made Microsoft more resilient and that size is not necessarily a disadvantage in the Web 2.0 era:
Size and momentum can be a disadvantage in some cases. And in some cases the breadth that is associated with size can be an advantage. It's my job to make sure that we are tactically executing quickly enough to be highly relevant where we need to be, and to use the breadth where we can to continue to be successful.Indeed, being nimble is going to be an ongoing challenge for Ozzie's Microsoft. Size matters if you can move fast when you need to, and so far Microsoft has not demonstrated great speed in the Web era with the exception of the first round of the browser war.