Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie is Microsoft’s latest senior-level vacancy in a year that saw J Allard and Robbie Bach hit the bricks. I suppose “vacancy” is a poor word choice, since Ballmer has stated publicly that Ozzie’s position will not be filled. In the great tradition of senior people leaving technology companies, he wrote an open letter thanking the people he worked with and giving his view on the future of computing.
The entry in Ozzie’s blog is dated October 28, 2010. If you read the rest of it, this will probably strike you as the only forward-thinking thing about it. It’s long. It’s random. It’s opaque with corpspeak to the point of hilarity. Take this sample paragraph:
In the realm of the service-centric ‘seamless OS’ we’re well on the path to having Windows Live serve as an optional yet natural services complement to the Windows and Office software. In the realm of ‘seamless productivity’, Office 365 and our 2010 Office, SharePoint and Live deliverables have shifted Office from being PC-centric toward now also robustly spanning the web and mobile. In ‘seamless entertainment’, Xbox Live has transformed Xbox into a real-time, social, media-rich TV experience.
You could win a dozen games of “buzzword bingo” from that paragraph alone. And there’s 50+ more where that came from, broken up into little 2 and 3 sentence gems. Ozzie’s other notable work, “The Internet Services Disruption”, warned Microsoft that quick, decisive action was required in 2005 to seize the upper hand in the age of the cloud. That didn’t work out too well either. Maybe it was that 5,000 word barrier.
Particularly telling is Ozzie’s reference to the 1939 World’s Fair. With the theme “Dawn of a New Day” (which is also the title of his farewell entry), the fair sparked the “leap from such a dark time (the Great Depression) to such a potentially wonderful future (which) meant having an attitude, individually and collectively, that we could achieve whatever we set our minds to.” He goes on to equate today’s economic climate with the climate in 1939, a course that can be reversed with the right measure of hope and optimism.
And a World War. Actually, he only tangentially refers to World War II, which is fitting for a company that is constantly reframing historical context. The problem for Microsoft is that Ozzie’s 1939 isn’t today. It was 2006. The war for mindshare has raged and the tide has turned. Microsoft has lost. And with every senior position fleeing, every earnings call disappointment, and every cubic yard of gas belched from Ballmer’s disingenuous yap that fails to make a difference in the market, more people are realizing it.