Ozzie's "Cloud OS" Raises More Questions than Answers
Ray Ozzie's briefing this week provided quite a bit more detail around Microsoft's "Software Plus Services" strategy. It's definitely worth a read (or a look, and if you're feeling too lazy for either you can read Nick Carr's summary).
It's been a year since Ozzie took over the role as Chief Software Architect from Bill Gates, and I think it is exciting to see his influence further emerge throughout the business, architectural and experential direction of Microsoft. The 30 year old company needs this injection - a shot in the arm. And his vision is the right one. It is the only one that has any chance of seeing Microsoft through its need for growth.
However, as the Ozzie's "Cloud OS" story slowly becomes more concrete, the future influence that Microsoft will have throughout the software and internet services ecosystem is becoming less clear.
Yes, we know Software as a Service (Saas) is becoming an increasingly significant trend, and we know that the enabling role Web Services (SOAP and REST based) has to play as part of the overall move to a distributed computing model is becoming ever more central, and we know that the browser will continue to further its dominance as the primary interface between humans and data, functionality and people, but what is not so clear is how many "major players" there will be in that future, what their roles will be, nor what the roles of the "everyone elses" will be.
Microsoft Partners have been assured a place by Microsoft's side in this future, but does anyone really know? How will all this fall out? How will Microsoft's traditional partner profile fit into Ozzie's new brave future? What kind of ecosystems will emerge? Will Microsoft's ecosystem of tomorrow look radically different to its ecosystem of today? Who are the Microsoft partners of today who will find themselves competing head-to-head with Microsoft tomorrow? What will Microsoft's competition of the future even look like?
The answers to some of these question may surprise us. How many people, for example, would have imagined a just few years ago that search engine providers or an online bookseller or online university network would emerge to become a serious potential competitor in the computing and software space of Microsoft? Not many. In the second internet age Microsoft's future competition and partners can literally come from any direction at any time. And they often do. In many respects, the future looks bright, but I suspect that for many in the software / computing industry the future is also very cloudy indeed.