Ozzie: Innovation coming from consumer, not corporate, market

Ozzie: Innovation coming from consumer, not corporate, market

Summary: Until fairly recently, many Microsoft watchers -- including Softies themselves -- would likely say that the Redmond software maker was far more focused on business users than consumers. But there's a noticeable shift happening in where Microsoft sees innovation taking place.


Until fairly recently, many Microsoft watchers -- including Softies themselves -- would likely say that the Redmond software maker was far more focused on business users than consumers. But there's a noticeable shift happening in where Microsoft sees innovation taking place.

Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie summed things up rather succinctly at the Microsoft Financial Analyst Meeting last week:

"(S)omething has happened over the last at least over the period of time that I've been in this industry, which is when I came in: technological innovations first hit within the corporate data center, and it worked its way outward. Nowadays the most exciting things are happening in consumer electronics, and the technology innovations really find their way into IT, as opposed to the other way around.

"One of the things that I'm extremely happy about, about Microsoft, is the breadth. The fact that we have Robbie (Bach's Entertainment and Devices) business all the way at the front edge lets us build things and work them into an enterprise in a way that matches the way that it's working in the entire ecosystem. And I think IBM in general, or any IT company that lacks that consumer component, is going to be disadvantaged from the perspective of IT.

"We have situations where enterprises really benefit from the fact that the people who come in from the outside already know how to use the tools and technologies. They buy the interesting phones before IT has embraced them and certified them. And this can be challenging for IT, but business also benefits from those dynamics that are going on, on the outside."

Sure, some might view Ozzie's pronouncements as a justification as to why Microsoft has been willing to take a hit on Xbox, Zune and even Windows Mobile in the name of "diversification." If anyone doubted Microsoft's intentions to stay in, and even beef up, its consumer investments, it sounds like those doubts are unfounded. Redmond is in the consumer market for the long haul.

Do you agree with Ozzie? Can a software/services vendor be successful without a consumer presence?

Update: Sounds like Microsoft's intentions to be more of a player in the consumer space were also a theme at TechReady5, a week-long conference for Microsoft's tech staf that took place in Seattle last week. David Ziembicki, a Senior Consultant with Microsoft Consulting Services, blogged about the consumer messaging at TechReady from Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner:

"What struck me most about both his "Gates') keynote and Kevin Turner's is the much increased focus on the consumer space.

"Consumers are driving a big portion of the tech industry today and that makes its way eventually into the corporate market. Both are extremely important to Microsoft for obvious reasons. They hype and success of the iPhone, Wii, etc. demonstrate two areas BillG says Microsoft needs to improve. The first is the design and approachability of the hardware itself. The second is the user interface experience like the touch capability of the iPhone and the Wii controller. In each of these areas Microsoft has had research and demos for a long time (like Microsoft Surface) but haven't gotten them to the market quickly enough. My impression was that across the board there will be focus on hardware and user experience."

Topics: Emerging Tech, Microsoft


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Well, duh, Ozzie

    It's all about inertia and the bottom line. If something in the corporate world works, even half-a$$edly, they will continue to use it and use it rather than invest a bucket of money in a new, maybe better, way of doing things. There has to be a crystal clear ROI advantage before the financial weenies buy it.

    On the other hand, consumers are a lot more likely to buy into a "fad". And Ozzie is right about consumer products--mainly software, I believe--sometimes getting into the corporate world by osmosis. But really, what's the corporate market for Xboxes and Zunes?
  • wrong! the innovation is comming from the community

    That's the OSS community, with linux spearheading the effort!
    Linux Geek
    • Shut up, Fool. (nt)

      • hard to accept the truth....eh!

        but that's some foreign thing to you!
        Linux Geek
        • Well, it's quite obvious what's foreign to you:

          Intelligence, having a clue, just to name a few
          John Zern
        • What would you know about truth?

          Dude, you wouldn't know truth or facts if they walked up and slapped you.
          • John, No_Ax, can one of you actually refute him...

            ...with a logical argument?


            In particular, No_Ax, your fist reply reeks of immaturity and ignorance.
          • Refute what?

            Linux Geek didn't really make a case that linux is spearheading any innovation...he just made a vague blanketed statement. There's nothing to refute...it's just an opinion. This is typical from him. He throws these little morsels of crap out here on a column centered on Microsoft and offers little in the way of constructive discourse. I think "Shut up fool" is appropriate.
          • You are right ...and yet....

            He did just make a blanket statement without any support but it was never refuted either.

            I can easily support it if I mention the PNG standard that is ubiquitous and rapidly developed and led to the development of JPEG2000 and JPEG XR.

            PNG brought progessive display to JPEG. It brought transparency to JPEG2000, It brought lossless compression to JPEG XR. The Open Source community did spearhead innovation in that area.

            So he did not support his statement as I am doing (not that I necessarily believe his blanket statement is justified) but none of the three of you refuted it and although he did not give support for his statement, his statement can be supported.

            So how about someone actually refute him before I have to do so myself?

            ...Anybody,... anybody,... anybody?
          • AMEN!

          • re:Logics - nicely done but...

            I don't think he is referring to maybe technical innovation so much as deign innovation, process innovation around the software. To me what you are describing is the technical innovation to support the above two styles of innovation.
          • Still...

            Linux geek gave us nothing to refute...end of story.
            Ozzie was talking about innovation coming from the consumer market vs. the corporate market. Saying, no, it comes from the open source community is like comparing apples and oranges. Even open source has to respond to market forces...otherwise it really isn't innovative is it?
        • We are talking about - real world...

          ...people like MS and Apple look at, talk with, monitor user real users everday lives. Survey etc., Not a bunch of geeks sitting around look how to make a package better. OSS reminds me of a bunch of hippies wanting to take it to the "man" sheesh.
    • Linux is like MSFTG

      Linux is innovative like Microsoft is innovative: in defining a new businss model. Or, in the case of Linux, a new non-business model. Other than that they mostly just copy.
      • Funny but...

        ...Microsoft is trying to copy the non-business model of OSS by giving away there MS Works suite and by hosting it on the web.

        They also want to provide JPEG XR without royalties and made it extensible.

        Two pages from the FLOSS playbook. Someone innovated something here.

        BTW, of what is Ogg a copy? How about Vorbis, SPEEK and FLAC, Theora? Ah, they are all audio/video codecs. But nothing similar came before them. Similarly, nothing like PNG came before it. But something like JPEG XR came before... that would be PNG. The difference is that PNG was not intended to hold exif data since it was desinged to replace web graphics and not high def photgraphic data. The fact that it could is quite incidental.

        Tell me one thing in Vista that did not previously exist in Mac OS, OS/2, Linux, BSD, UNIX, IRIS, NeXT, BeOS, Gnome, KDE, Beryl, Compiz, Emerald, Metisse or Enlightenment.

        MS Windows wasn't even the first GUI that used a 'windows' interface. Even there name existed to describe the interface before Windows(R) was born.

        THis is not to knock MS nor is it to support the OSS case. It is merely to encourage logical arguments with supporting data.

    • Are you joking?

      Linux may have lots of innovation, but how much of that is reaching the typical desktop user? Not much, I suspect.

      The innovation on the consumer side is definitely starting with the consumer. That said, I'm not sure how recent this is. Gamers have been a part of the need for faster machines for at least 15 years. I can remember many upgrading computers to play Wing Commander 1, 2, 3 and IV.

      Businesses, seem to put cheap POS computers on desktops...or maybe they're just really old ;)
      • How much is reaching the desktop?!?

        Have you not seen MS Windows Vista lately? ;-)

        Okay, how about OpenGL? That has reached every desktop including WinVista/XP/2000/98.

        Every nVidia card supports it and since lately, every ATi card. Not to mention all of the other good ones. Even the built-in ones like the Intel 9xx series. Also supported on the Mac.

        Business always use inexpensive computers because they do not need a 8.8GHz Quad-Core 128-bit CPU & Full HW accelerated OpenGL/DirectX video card, 7.1 digital in/out 3D soundcard, a 15k rpm 2?s response time 3.8TB 900-G shock-resistant SATA HDD and a USB racing wheel to run MSO2k7 on Vista.
    • Spot on

      I totally agree... I wonder why Microsoft and their overlicenesed and CAL'led products copy features from OSS communities and then even try to push these communities out the way with software patents and by dabbling with Linux through Novell and creating an OSS prject themselves which they will try to use to their advantage... I believe that competition will drive the market forward while monopolies will stifle the market. Innovation doesn't happen from a single person or company.
  • This is not news

    Technology innovation has almost always been driven by consumer, or individual,

    In the early days of the PC, the decision to buy an Apple II or a PC and a
    spreadsheet was made by an individual, or maybe a department head working
    independently of the MIS/IT department. Successful products appealed to
    individuals, and they clamored to have these tools available in their offices. IMHO,
    the PC software industry, and Lotus in particular, lost its soul when it decided it
    had to appeal to the IT managers instead of the end users. (I clearly remember the
    day when a Lotus VP noted that the time had arrived when more than 50% of
    desktop software suite purchases were being decided by IT managers instead of
    users or department heads.)

    It goes on. Cell phones? Purchased by individuals before they were recognized as
    corporate tools to be managed. Handhelds? Palm dominated the market by selling
    to individuals, and only later lost its commanding lead by handling the transition to
    IT management poorly compared to RIM (in addition to many other missteps.)
    Instant messaging also stands as an example.

    Google has dominated the industry's attention by appealing first to individual users
    with search and other services. Only now that is a de facto standard tool in the
    workplace (as well as elsewhere) is attention being paid to adapting it as a
    corporate resource.

    There might be exceptions that prove the rule (Salesforce.com?), but by and large
    the big paradigm shifts in the computing most of us see every day have been
    driven by appeal to the individual user.
    Doug K
  • Bravo, Microsoft

    At least, you know and understand what is going on!