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A Conversation with Ray Ozzie

Read/WriteWeb’s Web 2.0 Summit coverage sponsored by Yahoo!

In the final session of the day, John Battelle chats with Microsoft Chief
Software Architect Ray Ozzie. John starts with the now famous memo, which
“leaked” (but it wasn’t leaked, according to Ray) – he asked Ray how
it was progressing. Ray said the intent of the memo was to start people
thinking. He said now they’re at a very interesting juncture, now that office
and Vista are “done” – i.e. “released to manufacturing” said
Ray. He said this means when it will be released to the public, it won’t be
perfect but “it’s fulfilling the role that an operating system needs to
have in this era”. He said the single biggest thing Vista can do is provide
a secure environment for doing things on the Web. He said “Vista really was
secure by design”, to ensure vulnerabilities were removed before it is
shipped. Vista will be released to businesses by end of Nov, and to consumers by
end of January. Office is due by end of Nov.

John asks if there’ll be a cultural change in Microsoft. Ray says that
Microsoft has a lot of different groups and he says things have changed already
– but “it’s not one person that makes this happen, it’s a

John asks if the current web services and online advertising business model
as big a deal as the mid-90’s Gates memo on the Internet. Ray said it’s as big a
deal business-wise. He says they ask themselves what is the best way to deliver
value – which John notes is called ‘scenario-based design’. He says his message
in the memo was: for the experience being delivered via the Internet, which
piece will be on PC and which via the browser? So it’s an evolution of thinking
from the PC era, then the server era.

John asks what Ray thinks of Google. Ray praises Google and says they stay
focused on the user. John says Google is proving the advertising model for web
services, so he asks Ray what’s the zeitgeist on the Microsoft campus. John
mentions the office suite. Ray says there are half a billion odd users in the
office market, so he says they already have the audience – so his question is
how they deliver value to this audience in this era. John asks when Word will be
completely web native? Ray says it depends on the scenario of the usage – he
doesn’t see that it’s the right thing to do to take the PC interface and
functionality, and port it up to the Web. Ray says the Web is good at universal
access, sharing scenarios, etc – and the PC is good at flexible and fast UI, is
reliable. He says we’re going to a world where we’re dropping media items into
our documents, but the PC was designed for media editing.

John says that Bill Gates had ability to mandate things to happen, so will
Ray have that ability? Ray says that the way that Microsoft works, it is very
rare that Bill just gave orders and they had to be done. For Ray, he was given
“a free pass” when he came into the company, but he has to earn the
“followership” that Bill had.

Qst from the audience: what will be the theme for software in next
generation? (3-5 years). Ray said that on the office side, he thinks the biggest
opportunity is mobile devices, smart phones – so a lot of opportunity with those
different types of productivity scenarios. On the Vista side, hardware is moving
from multicore to manycore (many processors), so the system needs to help app
programmers to consume that. He also thinks there’s opportunities to innovate in
power management. He says they’ll address Windows support things like state
separation and deployment models will be brought up to date (“everything
should be deployed on the Web”).

Qst regarding the Adobe CEO’s comment that PDF has won the game of electronic
reading file format. Ray said that they’re now in an era where customers are
storing data for a long time, so it’s imperative that all vendors create formats
that enable data longevity. He says XML makes data transparent and that’s the
world we’re in right now.

Qst re Zune, why did MS come up with a closed system for music. Ray says
there’s one very strong focus with Zune, that is to build an end-to-end
experience. He says they never would have succeeded at this if they put too many
dependencies and complexities in the product at once – but this may open up in

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