I had a lot of faith in Ray Ozzie and when he was announced as the successor to Bill Gates, I anticipated good things for Microsoft. Today I downgraded my faith level in Ray after reading some Joe Wilcox's analysis on Ray's presentation at Microsoft's annual financial analysts meeting. I'm not sure if Ray was just too afraid to stray far from the mothership, or if he really believes what he's saying, but either way I get the feeling it's "Meet the new Microsoft, same as the old Microsoft." Joe notes that Ray dismissed the web saying "I do not believe the Web is the be-all and end-all of experience delivery. I believe that mobile devices are an amazingly important thing." This sounds pretty reasonable to me, except that I think those mobile devices are best used as tools to leverage the web. This is where the picture of Microsoft's vision gets a little clearer.
In many ways, Ray's speech could have come from someone at Adobe. He talks about the "aspiration to create seamless Web, desktop and mobile experiences for all activities relevant to users and customers" which if you didn't know better, would be something Kevin Lynch would say. However here's the distinction - Microsoft wants you to use their web, their desktop and their mobile devices. Because of who they are, it makes sense that this should be their business model, but if you read the speech and listen to Ray talk about Windows Live, it's obvious that Microsoft is aiming to control the web.
If you're a Microsoft shareholder, you should probably be thrilled, at least until you think about how impossible that is. And that's why this gamble can't pay off. The web is a nebulous, uncontrollable force. Adobe's strategy is to get the Flash Player on as many things as possible, then let a bunch of creative people create the applications of the future. Web 2.0 is successful because everyone chimed in with their voice and started building tools they thought would be useful.
Publishing your Outlook 2007 calendar to Windows Live so that you can access it with your Windows Smartphone or even your XBox is definitely a seamless experience - but it sounds dreadfully boring. As Joe says, the web already IS an "experience hub" but Microsoft wants you on their "experience hub". Meanwhile, Adobe is busy facilitating the "experience hub" that we are all using today.