The week in technology: Microsoft changes course
By Jonathan Loades-Carter
Published: November 11 2005 14:20 | Last updated: November 11 2005 14:20
There are no prizes for guessing what technology bloggers were talking about this week.
The latterly “leaking” of Bill Gates’ and Microsoft newcomer Ray Ozzie’s memos sent shockwaves through the IT community, most of whom concluded that it was the company’s biggest strategy shift since it belatedly embraced the internet 10 years ago. (For an in-depth look at the content of the memos, click here
Mr Ozzie’s frankness was welcomed by many commentators as he named key missed opportunities, including RSS, Ajax, Skype and Blackberries.
But more importantly, Mr Ozzie - who joined Microsoft earlier this year as a chief technical officer but who first made his name with Lotus Notes - offered a new model for software development stressing speed and flexibility rather than the deep integration that has been Mr Gates’ watchword over the last few years and that is blamed for clogging the company’s development pipeline despite a huge research budget.
Instead, Mr Ozzie envisages the creation of “loosely coupled” pieces of software, produced quickly and linked together through standard technical interfaces. This is would allow Microsoft to get new ideas out quickly and refine them based on early user responses, in a similar way to Google which dashes out new versions of its search or e-mail service at the drop of a hat.
In short, the software leviathan is awakening to the reality of Web 2.0, a post-dotcom crash world where “the ubiquity of broadband and wireless networking has changed the nature of how people interact, and they’re increasingly drawn toward the simplicity of services and service-enabled software that ‘just works.”
Primarily, this is a world where information and services can be delivered over the web without vendors or consumers needing to use Windows.
Blogger reaction was huge, ranging from those who applauded Microsoft for finally “doing the right thing” to those who claimed to have been telling Microsoft all this for years and of course those who’d rather see them fail.
The emphasis on providing services and “light development” got the thumbs up from several writers.
But some questioned whether Microsoft was capable of changing its ways so late in the day when Google and others have a much greater head start than Netscape did in the days of the early internet.
“He has a hard job,” David Winer, the creator of RSS, wrote in his blog. “Turning Microsoft in 2005 is going to be much harder than turning them in 1995. The company is much larger and set in its ways.”
Others wondered whether Microsoft itself had really decided which direction it was going, even with Windows Live and Office Live, the web-based products announced last week.
“Microsoft is embarking on a major, new strategy with almost no products to show,” said Joe Wilcox, on Microsoft Monitor Weblog.
The only conclusion one can draw at this time is that this subject is going to be under discussion for a long time to come - especially within Microsoft where an internal blog has been set up to keep the dialogue on the memos flowing.