Microsoft Chief Technologist Ray Ozzie is retiring this week and left a parting blog post to his staff entitled “Dawn of a New Day“.
After the requisite self-congratulation and sappy reflection, he offered some interesting comments on “Imagining A ‘Post-PC’ World”. He says despite its success and ubiquity, “the PC-centric / server-centric model has accreted simply immense complexity”. Despite what describes as Microsoft’s “superhuman engineering and design talent”, there are limits to how even they can mask the inherent complexity of today’s technology.
Complexity kills. Complexity sucks the life out of users, developers and IT. Complexity makes products difficult to plan, build, test and use. Complexity introduces security challenges. Complexity causes administrator frustration…But so long as customer or competitive requirements drive teams to build layers of new function on top of a complex core, ultimately a limit will be reached. Fragility can grow to constrain agility. Some deep architectural strengths can become irrelevant – or worse, can become hindrances.
Instead, to cope with the inherent complexity of a world of devices, a world of websites, and a world of apps & personal data that is spread across myriad devices & websites, a simple conceptual model is taking shape that brings it all together. We’re moving toward a world of 1) cloud-based continuous services that connect us all and do our bidding, and 2) appliance-like connected devices enabling us to interact with those cloud-based services.
He goes on to further to describe his vision. Then, in closing, he advises Microsoft:
And so, as Microsoft has done so successfully over the course of the company’s history, let’s mark this five-year milestone by once again fearlessly embracing that which is technologically inevitable – clearing a path to the extraordinary opportunity that lies ahead for us, for the industry, and for our customers.
So one has to assume these comments were crafted with input from Steve and Bill since it was not at all flattering. It all sounds good, but Microsoft’s business model relies on software licensing. Until they find out how to make those windfall profits in The Cloud, I don’t see that new day dawning just yet.
As for the complexity, a large portion of what we all refer to as complexity is better described as convolution. Convolution happens because we make bad decisions, usually because of business constraints. Maybe pushing IT to a handful of vendors who have the skills and financial model to do it right is the best solution, but I wonder how long it will take to get there.