Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s chief software architect, sat down for a question and answer session at the Technology Alliance lunch today at the Westin in downtown Seattle.
Ed Lazowska, a computer science professor at the University of Washington, asked questions and took a few from the audience. Ozzie talked about the cloud, netbooks and took a stroll down memory lane to describe the first Internet-ish system he used in 1974.
(Photo credit: Microsoft, 2008)
On cloud computing:
“Right now the way I’ve been framing things is in essence we are moving to a world of three screens and a cloud. That’s the most succinct way that I can describe it. For the user experience we will all commonly consume solutions immediate to us, whether it’s in media, entertainment consumer or business, that will be delivered to us in something the size of a phone, something the size of a PC, and something the size of a TV. There will be solutions that weave those things together, brought together by cloud on the backend.”
On how Microsoft Office will change to adapt to cloud computing:
“We have to repivot to think not ‘Is this the specific device?’ but ‘How do you deliver these scenarios across these devices.’ We are rethinking Office. We aren’t conceptualizing Office as a PC product anymore. There are scenarios in the realm of productivity that are very, very appropriate for PC such as viewing a spreadsheet. When you are trying to share something, the Web is a much more appropriate concept in terms of how to share because that’s how people are brought together. They aren’t brought together on the PC; they are brought together on the Web.
“When we’re in meetings like this or when you’re in a conference room, you have your phone with you, you don’t have laptop in front of you, you don’t have a browser in front of you. You might use the camera and take a snapshot, you might activate the headset and record. … Every device will be appliancelike so you’ll go buy it, you’ll log in with cloud-based identity and profile of what belongs on that device comes down to that device.”
On the impact of netbooks:
“It’s opportunity. Incredible opportunity. Netbooks, I’m not sure what a netbook is. I think it’s an inexpensive laptop. The clamshell thing you see that you get that doesn’t look a whole lot different from a laptop. … Many, many people use netbooks in conjunction with PCs. They buy more computers than they would have before. You can imagine people are actually buying family packs for their kids with netbooks but still have a PC at home. They might not have bought a full general-purpose PC for each of these people.
There are markets buying PCs that we had written off as well that’s a phone market. Now there are whole new markets for PCs.”
On the difference between Ozzie’s job as chief software architect and Craig Mundie’s job as chief research and strategy officer:
“The way Craig and I have divided roles is Craig is more three dimensions, I am more inwardly focused and work on product teams. Craig is more outwardly focused, deals with policy issues, government. Craig works at the research level starting at atoms and works upward from there and ends at features. I might start at features, go up through product and customer.
“Everything I’m working on I’m working with product group trying to drive alignment
synergy on what will happen in this release cycle and the next one, the two- to five-year time frame. I’m trying to drive product group to business impact in the short term.”
On experimenting with Plato, an online community, at the University of Illinois:
“This was ’74, this system was about 1,000 terminals on one CDC. … The whole thing was supposed to be about teaching, what teaching would be like with these automated systems. But during the off hours people could use it for all sorts of things. So people built interactive games, online discussions, there was an online community, people met each other, got married.
“I hesitate to say the Net but it was a centralized system. The fact that we, tens of thousands, were explosed to that system, were fortunate and got exposure to that online community got ahead of what we ultimately have.
“When many of us went out to industry — I went to Massachusetts to Data General — whenever we went to the next jobs and were exposed to at the time how computing was being applied — commercial computing, VAX — we were stunned by how boring it was. Where were the people? …
‘So many problems we sought to solve all failed because of one thing: People didn’t have computers and even if they had computers they were not connected to each other. That’s all been done. This should be the golden age.”