Microsoft checks out the iPod way

Newly appointed CTO Ray Ozzie says the music player is a good example of where the software giant could head with its services push.

SAN FRANCISCO--If someone is trying to understand where Microsoft is headed with its services push, they might want to start by checking out the iPod.

Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's newly appointed services guru, pointed to Apple Computer's iconic music player as a "perfect example" of a product that marries hardware, software and services. He also points to Research In Motion's BlackBerry, which brings together an e-mail device, server-based software and wireless data service.

In both cases, people don't think about the individual pieces of the package, he said. They just think about the tasks they want to do, such as listening to their music or getting e-mail on the go.


What's new:
Microsoft's service chief Ray Ozzie talks about the example of iPod and the "wake-up call" of Google's success.

Bottom line:
Ozzie's comments were the first detailed indications of where he and Microsoft are headed following a company reorganization last month.

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"You just want to think about what you want to accomplish," Ozzie, Microsoft's chief technical officer, said Tuesday during a noontime session at the VortexSF 2005 tech conference here.

The comments were the first detailed indications of where Ozzie and Microsoft are headed following a company reorganization last month. The reshuffle was seen by some as an attempt to better compete against services-based rivals such as Google.

Ozzie conceded that the rise of Google had been a "great wake-up call" and rallying point to get Microsoft thinking about services. However, he said that he didn't accept that the software giant has been playing catch-up in any area other than ad sales.

"I don't really feel personally as though Microsoft is behind in any way, shape or form related to services, except for the size of revenues from the new economic model," he said.

The services chief's comments offer a prelude for an , at which Ozzie and Chairman Bill Gates are expected to offer a more detailed look at Microsoft's plans.

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While acknowledging that "services" is a pretty broad term, Ozzie pointed to a wide range of opportunities for the company, from hosting software for small businesses that don't want the complexity of managing a server, to adding specialized products for large businesses that already have scores of servers.

"Services-enabled software really is going to change the nature of how almost everyone uses technology, from consumers to small businesses to enterprises," Ozzie said. But that change, he added, will come "in different forms and at different paces."

While the idea that consumers might prefer to use Internet services rather than download software is pretty much accepted, it is still a fairly foreign concept to most companies that they would want to take business software out of their data center, Ozzie said.

"For enterprises, I think we've just barely scratched the surface about which systems brought into the cloud in some way shape or form," he said.

That was illustrated by a poll of the crowd of technology executives that attended Ozzie's chat. Asked by moderator Geoffrey Moore how many of the audience's businesses

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