Monthly Archives: November 2008

Ray Ozzie’s 2005 Memo & Agile

Shortly after Ray Ozzie arrived at Microsoft back in 2005, he wrote a memo (not unlike Gates’ Paul Revere-ish 1995 memo about embracing the internet) which was recently accounced, but not yet released. It outlined a few things, namely the company (Microsoft) had to start thinking and operting like an internet company, and as much as possible, liek a web startup!

Ray pitched ad-supported or subscription businss models, viral distribution and experiences that “just work.” Focus on being seemless, bottom line: Change big-time, or else.  Microsoft at the time was trying to ship Vista and Office so Ozzie project began.  Ray then gathered a team to begin delivering results, in short time frames (sound familiar)?  Ray began code name “Red Dog”, now referred to as Azure, with the help of Amitabh Srivastava & Dave Cutler, out from semi-retirement.

An interesting aspect of the new operating system is that is was produced with a fraction of the manpower the company typically directs to critical projects.  “There are literally thousands of people on windows, but Ray emphasized small groups with very focused people is a better way of doing things,” Cutler says. The goal it seems, was to produce working software faster.  Hmm, thats interesting, without spelling it out, it sure spells alot like Agile to me.  So what exactly does the Ozzie project entail?

  1. Windows Azure – Microsoft’s long awaited “operating system for the cloud” doesn’t run on a laptop – it runs on the companies thousands of servers.  Customers develop their web-based businesses to operate on Microsoft’s data centers, and Windows Azure allocates resources as needed. (expected late 2009)
  2. “Zurich” – codename for Azure services platform, a set of sophisticated tools to help developers manage their own cloud-based services and web apps. (available now in preview)
  3. Live Mesh – a service built on Red Dog that allows people (PC & Mac) to synchronize all their files, photos, and music with all their devices. (expected in 2009, now in public beta, see
  4. Office Web Apps – the next major Office release will include relatively complete Web version of Microsoft’s crown jewels.  Users can subscribe or access free versions supported by ads. (expected in 2010, but some versions may appear sooner.)

If you’re interested in keeping up with all the latest Microsoft developments, I strongly encourage you to check out the sessions from Microsoft’s recent Professional Developers Conference, now available online (for free) at:

What is Cloud Computing?

I get asked that question alot.  Like web 2.0, cloud computing means different things to different people.  The vanilla answer is “software delivered over the Net.”  According to Google, consumer cloud computing is the web, but when people talk of the brewing cloud battle among Amazon, Microsoft and Google; it takes a slightly different form.

The first is operating internet-based services in the cloud, everything from web-based programs such as GMail and Hotmail to the model used by enterprise software such as, which hosts and runs high-end business applications for corporations.  The other is the idea of offering an internet based platform to developers who want to create services but don’t have their own cloud to run them on.  So they rent storage, computation, and maintenance from someon else, currently Amazon ang Google, but soon Microsoft (enter Azure!)

Cloud companies assume that consumers will embrace the idea that much of what was once crunched on their PCs and stored on their hard drives will now live in some vague, faraway place, trusting that it will always be there when they need it.

Needless to say, it’s a controversial subject that is getting alot of attention.  It plays nicely with the virtualization movement and helps to bring the promise of the “web desktop” a little closer to reality.  It’s still early to predict how the cloud will ultimately impact markets, but it’s surely something to watch.

If I were to make a bold prediction, borrowing heavily from my understanding of Ray Ozzie’s vision (Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect) we’ll see a whole new marketplace created for consumption by business and consumers alike.  I personally credit and Software as a Service (SaaS) for pioneering the notion (or arguably others prior, such as application service providers [ASP] models) which together have been pushing the boundaries ever slow slowly away from the desktop and making the “platforms” themselves more ubiquitous, enabling developers to target platforms where marketplaces already exist, vs. trying to create it themselves.  Imagine Facebook Dev Platform + OpenSocial + Apple iPhone Apps, Amazon Services, Google App Engine and now Azure – each with offer unique capabilities and distribution channels, yet they all share one tenet, empower the developer to create value-added applications for their respective platform(s). Think Slide for the enterprise, or the realization of Mark Zuckerberg’a vision for a whole new computer marketplace, trumping that of the “OS” itself – which could spur the next round of technology giants!  Pretty cool stuff.

Software reminds me a lot of Michigan weather, if you don’t like it, just wait five minutes and it will change!

2009 Christmas List

Wired Magazine recently launched its own online store.  If you read the magazine, you’ve no doubt uncovered new gadgets in nearly each issue.  Now you can find them all under one roof, whether you’re shopping for yourself or others, it’s a great place to browse and discover new content (although you may want to price shop, they aren’t typically for the budget conscious!)


Back to the Garage

Wired magazine did a brief article recently on the Garage Economy, when the economy is in turmoil, the time is ripe for innovation.  Conditions do seem ideal for opertunistic entrepreneurs.  In slowdowns such as what we’re experiencing, many companies often concentrate on in-house cost cutting instead of exploring new markets, which can explode with the next turn of the business cycle.

The article went on to reference Tom Siebel, who launched Siebel Systems back in July of 1993, in a similar down economic market and his product was new and untested.  In other words, the timing couldn’t have been better.  After having sold Siebel Systems to Oracle in 2005, he’s been rumored to be working on “personal projects” and recently has been starting to collect resumes and locating space in Silicon Valley for a new startup.

Is now the time to launch your next big idea?  There has certainly been a lack of IPOs of late, now might just be a great time to round up some inexpensive, underworked software engineers and pull off some all night coding parties to get your version 1 product ready for a market up tick.  Who knows, if you’re able to secure a niche or exploit a void in the marketplace, you’re little idea could fall upon very welcome investors in the next couple years – heck, all it takes is one great idea, some momentum and before you know it consumer confidence is growing and we’re on to the next bear market!  Take this downtun as an opportunity, the cycle only occurs every so often.. in the words of Tom Siebel “the timing couldn’t be better.”