Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ray Ozzie on Why Microsoft Needs To Smash Its Own 'Windows'

Here is what Microsoft's short-time executive Ray Ozzie wrote to Microsoft employees in 2010.  It's all here about Windows.  The Windows strategy was developed by a hyperagressive Microsoft team led by Bill Gates in partnership with Intel, and it certainly worked, but it sowed the seeds of its own demise, as many things in nature do.

"Complexity kills. Complexity sucks the life out of users, developers and IT.  Complexity makes products difficult to plan, build, test and use.  Complexity introduces security challenges.  Complexity causes administrator frustration.
And as time goes on and as software products mature – even with the best of intent – complexity is inescapable.
Indeed, many have pointed out that there’s a flip side to complexity:  in our industry, complexity of a successful product also tends to provide some assurance of its longevity.  Complex interdependencies and any product’s inherent ‘quirks’ will virtually guarantee that broadly adopted systems won’t simply vanish overnight.  And so long as a system is well-supported and continues to provide unique and material value to a customer, even many of the most complex and broadly maligned assets will hold their ground.  And why not?  They’re valuable.  They work.
But so long as customer or competitive requirements drive teams to build layers of new function on top of a complex core, ultimately a limit will be reached.  Fragility can grow to constrain agility.  Some deep architectural strengths can become irrelevant – or worse, can become hindrances.
Our PC software has driven the creation of an amazing ecosystem, and is incredibly valuable to a world of customers and partners.  And the PC and its ecosystem is going to keep growing, and growing, for a long time to come.  But today, as I wrote five years ago, ”Just as in the past, we must reflect upon what’s going on around us, and reflect upon our strengths, weaknesses and industry leadership responsibilities, and respond.  As much as ever, it’s clear that if we fail to do so, our business as we know it is at risk.”
And so at this juncture, given all that has transpired in computing and communications, it’s important that all of us do precisely what our competitors and customers will ultimately do: close our eyes and form a realistic picture of what a post-PC world might actually look like, if it were to ever truly occur.  How would customers accomplish the kinds of things they do today?  In what ways would it be better?  In what ways would it be worse, or just different?
Those who can envision a plausible future that’s brighter than today will earn the opportunity to lead."
No matter how much time Microsoft's executive recruiters spend on their search process, whomever they find through the predictable process, no matter how talented, will ultimately be chewed up by the stultifying Microsoft culture before (s)he claims victory and is replaced. The entrenched forces are too numerous and too deeply dug in to believe in another new messiah.
Rick Webb of Quotidian Ventures has a provocative thesis.  He believes that Microsoft will acquire Ray Ozzie's Taiko start-up and name him their new CEO. He recently joined H-P's board, which was a coup for them.  This would be a pretty radical move, but unless it's driven and approved by Bill Gates himself, it won't happen.  If Mr. Ozzie couldn't change Microsoft from inside before, what will have changed by taking the reins now?  Credit for a refreshing idea, Rick. 

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