Friday 6 April 2007

Its speaks... but nothing unexpected

We've all been wondering about Ray Ozzie, but at least he has made an appearance in the blogosphere via an interview in Knowledge@Wharton (BTW the fact that you need to scroll past about three screens of intro to get the meat of the interview probably says something about Ozzie's lack of presence outside of the Microsoft campus these days).

Ozzie is given the opportunity to pitch some ideas about the future of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and future computing architectures, he says:

"I don't believe a single model is going to solve all problems. Computers within an enterprise, for example, are very tethered. In the enterprise model, it might be that running applications off a service with a high bandwidth connection to that desktop is the perfect thing. Some professionals are highly mobile and the best architecture for them is to have things delivered to a mobile device and replicated up to the service.

In the docs and spreadsheets realm, I believe there are certain uses of spreadsheets in particular, where the sharing model [enabled by] using it up on a service could be really useful. I think that there are other scenarios where you want it on your laptop...

...Adobe is a great example. Flash is a rich client; it's rich code delivered to the edge. It's not a centralized model; it's a decentralized model. It just happens to be tethered to the service.

If anybody has a software and services model, it's Adobe, because of that rich [Flash Player] applet that they extend the browser with. The more they enhance that, as you can see in their Flex and Apollo plans, the more it becomes this unified software and service vision...

...Most web pages have JavaScript in them. That's code that is delivered to the client and it has the lifetime of the browser instance you're using. Flash -- what is that? Well, it involves enhancing the browser runtime by downloading code. But it tethers those enhancements to the service and the lifetime of those things is still within the browser. With Apollo, maybe you can make the lifetime that of the user on that device. They have increased the lifetime from the browser instance to the PC."

Other than being very complementary about Adobe's strategy, the mention of the Adobe Apollo model is worth considering in light of current conversation about it and the offline Web-apps debate. However, I find neither clarity or anything revolutionary in the Ozzie interview about where we are going to end up. For example:

  • I'm not sure I agree that we can't develop a single model to accommodate both "tethered" and "mobile" computing needs at the same time.
  • He suggestions that 1st generation SaaS "really just meant browser. Second generation means weave together hardware, software and services to accomplish a specific solution", but again this dismisses the whole ease of deployment issue and lack of vendor lock-in (from a technology platform perspective) that the browser provides.

So, he either has nothing to say or doesn't want to reveal his cards just yet. Nick Carr comments:

"Ozzie doesn't say anything unexpected, but he provides a through and often subtle explanation of his view of the future of software and of Microsoft."

Yep. Nothing to see here, people. Move along.

UPDATE: More commentary on the interview from Dan Farber.

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