Selling Microsoft's integration vision

Summary:Q&A: Microsoft's head of platform strategy claims Live will put users in charge of their computing experience

Charles Fitzgerald is the man charged with guiding the vision of Microsoft's platform policy and with ensuring that the company can deliver on some ambitious targets. As general manager for platform strategies he is currently focused on ensuring that the world understands the overall concepts behind Microsoft Live.

But while Fitzgerald will happily map out a vision of an all-embracing world that includes a plethora of devices across the computing universe — from servers to car management systems, from PDAs to television sets — don't expect to find any space for environments outside the Microsoft orbit. Open source? On-demand computing? Forget about it.

Fitzgerald talked about these and other concepts on a visit to London last week.

Q: You have a general-sounding job title and a wide-ranging remit. How do you see your role within Microsoft?
A: I am the general manager of platform strategies so I take a very broad purview of what we are doing. I look at how we can make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

Microsoft has always been a platform company and it is therefore hard for us to do anything without taking a platform approach. By that we mean creating an eco-system around what we do. Typically that is based around developers, although there are other participants in different platform plays. The next frontier for the platform is a set of programmatic services and the eco-system that exists around that.

Microsoft is aggressively expanding in so many different areas, how do you get these different systems working together efficiently and with the right performance?
In some cases, efficiency may be the last thing you want to do. In a world of abundant processing power, you may choose to waste processing power in order to drive integration. In many cases the industry is moving from an era of scarcity: scarcity of processing, scarcity of disk. Bandwidth will probably continue to be the scarcest resource on a relative basis.

A lot of what people are doing now is almost wasting abundant resource. You may do calculations that you never take advantage of. You may speculatively cache things on disk that you never take advantage of, but the economics of hardware mean that it makes sense to go and do that.

You still need to deal with relative scarcity, though, so as we look at the relative rates of improvements in power, disk and bandwidth, it is bandwidth that is growing the slowest.

You'd rather waste CPU cycles in order to deliver a better experience or do a better job on the integration side, whatever is needed.

You've been working on Microsoft Live for some time?
We have had a pretty consistent vision of what the end-user experience would be like for the past five or six years, in terms of customer readiness and the underlying software infrastructure. Microsoft and the industry have spent a lot of the last five years building that new generation of software infrastructure.

So, in software services we have embarked on the migration to the .Net generation technology, helping the developer community move and adopt. They've done that — .Net is now the most widely used platform and toolset by developers.

But that was an internally focused objective for developers. We put the infrastructure in place; now it's time to really take advantage of that and deliver a new set of customer experiences.

What sort of customer experience?
The idea that captures it best is the idea of seamless experiences. We now live in a world where people have multiple PCs, multiple devices and each of those things have different applications and different services.

The fundamental premise around Windows Live is to put the user at the centre and get the technology to work together on their behalf and under their control. We are surrounded with...

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Topics: Enterprise Software


Colin has been a computer journalist for some 30 years having started in the business the same year that the IBM PC was launched, although the first piece he wrote was about computer audit. He was at one time editor of Computing magazine in London and prior to that held a number of editing jobs, including time spent at the late DEC Compu... Full Bio

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