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Ozzie: Vista, Office must adapt to Web era

Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie says with Office 2007 and Vista done, company is at an "interesting juncture." Video: Ozzie looks ahead

SAN FRANCISCO--With Microsoft's Vista and Office 2007 released to manufacturing, the software giant is preparing to adapt the products for the Web-dominated era, Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie said Wednesday.

Ozzie spoke at the Web 2.0 Summit here, where he said the company overall is making a transition to designing software that takes advantage of the PC--as it has historically done--as well as online services.

"Now we are at an interesting juncture with Vista and Office (2007) done," Ozzie said during an on-stage interview with conference organizer John Battelle.

Microsoft on Wednesday said that Vista has been released to manufacturing and it, along with Office 2007, is expected to be made available to businesses at the end of this month and to consumers by the end of January.

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Video: Ray Ozzie looks to the future
Microsoft's chief software architect talks about new software for a new era.

Responding to a question from an attendee, Ozzie described some of the product goals he envisions for the next editions of Windows and Office.

Specifically, he said Office can be better adapted for Internet-connected mobile devices. And the next version of Windows should aid software developers in creating applications that run on machines with several processing "cores" on a chip.

"On the Office side, the biggest opportunity is that it's a world where mobile devices...and smart phones are everywhere," he said.

"The Web is pervasive and I think there are scenarios that have tremendous opportunities to take advantage of the advent of different device types," he said.

For Windows, Ozzie foresees adjustments to PCs that have many cores, a shift right now that requires application developers to adjust their existing applications.

"The (operating) system needs to help application programmers to consume (multiple cores) in a reasonable way without forcing everyone on Earth to factor their code that way," he said.

In addition, power management needs to be improved. The next Windows should also include features for "state separation," where individual applications are separated in terms of execution and settings, he said.

Finally, he said, installing applications from a CD-ROM is a practice that should be replaced by Web-delivered software.

Meanwhile, with Vista, Ozzie said that the software is "not perfect," but provides better reliability and safety for end users, something that has become more important since Windows XP was released in 2001.

"The biggest thing that Vista can do is provide a safe environment for interaction on the Web," he said.

Windows plus Web
Ozzie said that the transition to integrate online services into Microsoft products has been a challenge but that changes within the company are happening. Office Live, for example, complements the Office PC applications with online services for small and medium-size businesses.

One year ago, in an all-company memo, Ozzie described the "services disruption" of the industrywide shift to hosted services. (He said the memo was not intentionally leaked by Microsoft.)

But he dismissed the notion that PCs and operating systems are irrelevant in a time when more sophisticated applications are delivered via the Web.

"I don't see the right thing to do is to take the PC interface and functionality and put it on the Web," Ozzie said. "I believe you have to look at what the Web is really good at."

At Microsoft, Ozzie is advocating a "scenario-driven design" approach where engineers create products based on the task an end user is trying to accomplish. Scenarios such as sharing documents online are very well suited to Web-based applications.

"Those are scenarios that Web-based (applications) will just nail and complement things that are done on the PC," Ozzie said.

For example, people will rely on their PC to edit media files and then post them onto the Web.

"What the PC is good at, the Web doesn't have as its core strength, such as really fast (user interface) regardless of the connection speed and reliability," he said.

Filling Bill G's shoes
Battelle asked Ozzie to characterize the transition under way at Microsoft, where Ozzie is taking over the chief software architect role from founder Bill Gates.

Ozzie said that he does have a different "interaction style" than Gates, who is known for is sometimes merciless product reviews.

"There's a certain mythology around any leader, particularly Bill...The organization reveres him and wants to follow him," he said.

Ozzie, meanwhile, is still gaining the loyalty of employees.

"I was given a free pass because I've known (CEO) Steve (Ballmer) and Bill for a long time, but I have to earn that followership and that takes some time," he said.

Commenting on Google, Ozzie said that the company is a "force to be reckoned with by many people in the industry."

However, he said that Google's main product strength in search can be better challenged.

"I think there's immense opportunity in the core space they are in of search," he said.