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The Week in Microsoft: Can the Creator of Lotus Notes Also Reboot Redmond?

The Rise and Rise of Raymond Ozzie

One of the most interesting facets of the "Leaked Memo" incident last week is not so much what it tell us about Microsoft's Bill Gates, author of one of the two leaked internal memos, as what it reveals about the author of the second one: Ray Ozzie (pictured), the creator of Lotus Notes and Groove Networks, now installed by Gates as one of Microsoft's three CTOs.

Ozzie's memo, entitled "The Internet Services Disruption," was hailed by Gates as being likely to rival the impact of his own historic memo written ten years ago this December, "The Internet Tidal Wave," which described how the internet was going to forever change the landscape of computing.

"I feel sure we will look back on [Ozzie's memo] as being as critical as 'The Internet Tidal Wave' memo was when it came out," Gates pronounced.

He also noted:
"Steve [Ballmer] and I recently expanded Ray Ozzie's role as CTO to include leading our services strategy across all three divisions. We did this because we believe our services challenges and opportunities will impact most everything we do. Ray has long demonstrated his passion for software, and through his work at Groove he also came to realize the transformative potential for combining software and services."

In other words, even though the two other divisions  - the Entertainment & Devices Division and the Business Division - each have CTOs, it is clearly the newly created Platform Products & Services Group that is calling the shots at Redmond since the reorg. Why? Because it contains the tell-tale mantra-word: "services."

In his own leaked memo, Gates wrote that "the opportunity is to utilize the Internet to make software far more powerful by incorporating a services model which will simplify the work that IT departments and developers have to do while providing new capabilities." It is the Platform Products & Services Group, then, that Gates and Ballmer are looking to to carry the game to Google.

The Platform Products & Services Group comprises the old Windows Client, Server and Tools group and the all-important MSN online services division. If it is to out-Google Google, Microsoft has to ride what Gates calls the  "services wave" of applications and experiences available instantly over the internet to millions of users. "Services designed to scale to tens or hundreds of millions will dramatically change the nature and cost of solutions deliverable to enterprises or small businesses," Gates added, continuing: "We will build our strategies around Internet services and we will provide a broad set of service APIs and use them in all of our key applications."

What does Ozzie say, though? Looking at his memo-cum-philosphical-essay, "The Internet Services Disruption," it is clear that he believes Microsoft is well positioned to deliver what he calls "seamless experiences to customers, enabled by services and service-enhanced software" - (his emphasis).

Declaring that his memo, sent to all Microsoft staffers on October 28, was intended "to get all of us roughly on the same page, and to get you thinking," Ozzie seems to be capitalizing on the fact that 2006 is for Microsoft assured of being an amazing year for shipping products. In other words, he sees an opportunity, while products like BizTalk Server 2006 are preoccupying customers and analysts alike, to spend the year galvanizing the huge pool of innovators clustered in Redmond into reflection then action, trhereby engendering the next wave of business and technical creativity that can hopefully sustain Microsoft for the next decade or more.

In his call to arms, Ozzie is very open about his prior admiration for Microsoft's ability to come from behind, to pick itself up, dust itself off, and start all over again:

"As an outsider, I was repeatedly impressed and awed over the years by how this company’s talent has swarmed to effectively respond to huge business challenges and transitions."
He continues:
"We’re off to a great start with many initiatives already under way – from efforts occurring now within MSN, to the IW services being launched imminently. We’re in a tremendous position to succeed, but doing so will require your belief, creativity, support, leadership, follower-ship and action."
The elephant in the room, "Web 2.0" as it has been dubbed, isn't mentioned at all in Ozzie's five thousand word memo. But it is there all the same, and in Gates's memo it is fully referenced: "We will build our strategies around Internet services and we will provide a broad set of service APIs and use them in all of our key applications," Gates wrote, continuing:
"More than any other company, we have the vision, assets, experience, and aspirations to deliver experiences and solutions across the entire range of digital workstyle & digital lifestyle scenarios, and to do so at scale, reaching users, developers and businesses across all markets."

With Ray Ozzie at the very height of his powers, and clearly with the full majesty and authority now of Gates and Ballmer behind him, giving him the weight to punch hard and fast through any of Redmond's old bloatware tendencies, it promises to be an extremely interesting decade ahead. Unlike Gates (50) and Ballmer (49), Ray Ozzie - who turns 50 next week, on November 20 - is associated somehow with the future more than the past and the present. Which makes him a natural focal point for a company attempting to combat the surging wave of disruptive business creativity pulsating through the Web from the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA, where founders Brin and Page are still both only an astonishingly young and vibrant 32.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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