LAS VEGAS--VMware chief executive Paul Maritz, who once ran Microsoft's Windows empire, told the 19,000 attendees at the VMworld conference here this afternoon that the computing industry is entering the post-PC era.
Maritz, who in the late 1990s was Microsoft's third most power executive behind Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer and oversaw the company's rise to PC operating system hegemony, embraced the vision of a longtime nemesis of the software giant.
"Steve Jobs likes to say we're entering the post-PC era," Maritz said during his keynote address. "We agree with that."
And that's important for VMware's customers and partners to recognize, Maritz said. They need to create technology that embraces a world where people are tapping into the Web and applications from a wide variety of devices.
"In three years, more than 80 percent of the devices that connect to the Internet won't be Windows-based PCs," Maritz said.
Of course, it's been more than a decade since Maritz left Microsoft. And these days, he's locked in a fierce battle with his old employer, which itself is pushing into virtualization and bumping up against market leader VMware. To coincide with VMworld, Microsoft launched a new ad campaign mocking VMware's out-of-date pricing policy, starring a 1970s era sales executive, complete with Fu Manchu mustache, selling virtualization technology from the back of his tricked out van.
The idea of a post-PC era runs counter to the vision Microsoft likes to promulgate. Earlier this month, Microsoft PR boss Frank Show sought to debunk the post-PC era meme, blogging that "PC plus" would be a better term.
Maritz, though, noted that personal computing era was largely about automating white-collar work. Increasingly, though, workers are using computers differently. They're connecting via social networks and collaborating using Internet applications.
"The problem is that people under 35 don't sit behind desks. They don't lovingly create documents," Maritz said. "We're moving to a post-document era."
That's pushed VMware to think more broadly than just virtualization. Like so many other tech companies, VMware has been launching a host of new products embracing cloud computing, leveraging its virtualization foundation.
"We, at VMware, are not immune from cloud fever," Maritz said.
The centerpiece is its vSphere 5 platform, part of a cloud infrastructure suite designed to improve manageability, scalability and reliability. VMware launched that product in July.
VMware is also stepping up efforts to lure developers to its vision for next-generation applications. Maritz believes that younger developers, the ones who are creating the applications for the cloud, don't want to deal with "low-level housekeeping." So VMware is pushing its vFabric application framework, which includes tools for developers to more easily create applications.
"We need to look at what the new generation of developers are doing," Maritz said. "Developers have revolted against complexity."
This story was originally published on CNET News.com.
Jay Greene, a CNET senior writer, works from Seattle and covers Microsoft, Google and Yahoo. He's the author of the book, Design Is How It Works: How the Smartest Companies Turn Products into Icons (Penguin/Portfolio). He started writing about Microsoft and technology in 1998, first as a reporter for The Seattle Times and later as BusinessWeek's Seattle bureau chief.