Microsoft is re-inventing itself again. This time around internet services. A memo from Microsoft's new CTO, Ray Ozzie gives some indication as to where Microsoft is heading...
And the work of these startups could be improved with a 'services platform'. Ironically, the same things that enable and catalyze rapid innovation can also be constraints to their success. Many hard problems are often ignored the most significant of which is achieving scale. Some scale issues are technological and result from the fact that they are generally built on application server platforms rather than high-scale service platforms. But new services also need to build user communities from scratch generally by word of mouth. Many fund their sites using syndicated ads, but have a difficult time transforming their services into higher levels of commerce. Some seek to incorporate client software into their user experience, but then need to reinvent software deployment, update, communications and synchronization mechanisms. User identity and cross-service interoperability mechanisms are still needlessly fragmented. Intuitively there seems to be a platform opportunity in providing such capabilities to developers in a form that retains the speed, simplicity and loose coupling that is so very important for rapid innovation.
What this memo details is an ambitious undertaking whose targets will be quickly changing. The fast rate of internet technology innovation leads me to believe that many assumptions underlying this strategy will have changed several times before Microsoft figures out how to deliver it's first iterations. I wonder if Microsoft can pull this off. Cringley is more critical.
Looking at Ray Ozzie's memo, it is rich in generalities and lacking in specifics. I found it helpful to again step into the shoes of the consumer or corporate IT buyer. What APIs and what services would Microsoft offer that I'd be willing to buy? The internet has provided us many new ways to do business. But are there even more big untapped business ideas out there? If Microsoft could break open a new market, that would be exciting. But is there a new market to be opened?