Ozzie Puts Himself on the Line

Well, Microsoft formally and finally stuck its head in the clouds today. Redmond's Ray Ozzie, the company's chief software architect, gave the outside world the rundown on Live Mesh, a software-based system for data storage over the Web.

Microsoft, of course, is late to the game with this sort of "cloud computing" technology, with a bevy of rivals already out and marketing competitive products. But with the estimable Mr. Ozzie in charge of this initiative, I like Microsoft's chances of catching up.

What is of historical note here is that in delivering Live Mesh, Microsoft is taking the first steps toward evolving its $51 billion business model away from one that has been PC-focused for the last 33 years to one that's focusing just as intensely on software and services located at the datacenter level. While one could say the company is taking a bold or adventurous step here, it really has no choice but to do so.

What is a bold step in all this, however, is the document Ozzie sent to company employees earlier this week that listed the "guiding principles" of Microsoft's overall services strategy. In that document, Ozzie writes that "the Web is the hub of our social mesh and our device mesh," clearly indicating that the PC is no longer the most important focus of the company. This runs counter to what Ozzie's boss (at least until July), Bill Gates, has said as recently as last year about the PC still being the focal point for where Microsoft will bring together all of its key products and services.

While I'm sure Ozzie believes he's taking the right approach, with Gates' shadow still lurking over him, there has to be enormous pressure on him to make this strategy succeed.

Big Blue Boxes Turn Green
Speaking of cloud computing, the concept is gaining the attention of those creating and delivering green IT products -- even mainframes. IBM showed off its iDataPlex servers yesterday for the first time, a series of higher-end machines specifically tailored for companies that need to gen-up a lot of power for Web serving while also keeping power consumption to a minimum.

Through some clever design, IBM can get twice as many servers into your average rack but only use 40 percent of the power. Apparently, Big Blue's secret sauce is in the liquid cooling that makes it possible for these servers to run at room temperatures, eliminating the need for cold air to be pumped in.

Another nice trick IBM has pulled off with the technology is that the new systems make it possible for IT pros to establish a common pool of computing resources instead of having servers be lassoed to specific applications.

The thought IBM has here is to encourage small, Web-based companies to get more aggressively into the Web 2.0 world of cloud computing by eliminating some of the now-skyrocketing costs typically associated with energy.

We like green computing technologies here at Redmond magazine. If you have green products, technologies and services, send your thoughts my way at [email protected].

How Low Can You Go: Microsoft Plays the PC Limbo
While Ray Ozzie is making it clear that Microsoft's longer-term strategic focus will shift from a PC-centric one to one aimed at the "clouds," another high-level Redmond executive made it clear recently that PCs are hardly off the company's radar. Kevin Turner, Microsoft's COO, said this week that he sees the super low-end PC market as a potentially rich opportunity and that he plans to go after it aggressively.

There are two reasons why this market (and we're talking $200 PCs here) is becoming more compelling for Microsoft. One is the continued spectacular growth of low-cost systems among developing nations. Two, it's a way to stop the spread of Linux being deployed on these systems both overseas and in the U.S market (where users are buying low-cost machines as their second and even third PC in the home -- heck, even I'm considering a third PC for the home) at the expense of Windows.

While Turner hasn't fully formed the strategy for going after this market, he isn't sitting still, either. Earlier this month Microsoft announced its intention to make Windows XP Home available for low-cost systems (yet another reason to not sunset XP in favor of Vista) until 2010. Also this month, Turner signed a deal with the India-based HCL that will allow the company to bundle Windows XP Home on its rock-bottom-priced laptop.

With Microsoft forever pushing for high margins on its desktop operating systems and applications, it will be interesting -- from a financial standpoint -- to see if the company will be satisfied with much thinner profits than it's accustomed to. Otherwise, it will need to sell a cazillion copies of XP in what figures to be a very cost-competitive environment.

Reporting on Redmond
Finally today, I wanted to take a minute to remind you about our new site RedmondReport.com. It's a constantly updating collection of links to the latest news relevant to Microsoft IT professionals from sites all across the Web (in fact, you can find the links to all the news I covered today on the site). Our staff combs through the latest IT news all day, every day, so RedmondReport.com is our way of making it easy for us to share what we find with each other and you.

Bookmark the site today!

About the Author

Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.


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