Ray Ozzie

This is a rambling post, I know.  I started to save it as a draft and finish it tomorrow but decided instead just to push it out now….


A lot of people are calling Ray Ozzie the new “Microsoft Messiah” or some such crap.  He isn’t.

I met Ray at “When 2.0” in DEC 2005.  He’s a very smart guy, and he is approachable, and he is personable, and he realizes he doesn’t know everything, and he realizes it is important to talk to people outside of Microsoft, and he believes there are great minds and ideas that exist outside of Redmond.

Yeah, I believe he is all of that (really – I have a ton of respect for the guy).  But he won’t “save Microsoft” through his actions as a manager, and possibly not even through his actions as a leader.  He’ll win the hearts, minds and investment of people by building a better business.

Building a better business benefits everyone.  Note I did not say building a more profitable business. 

By building a better business I mean something that excites people – employees, shareholders, AND customers.  Treating employees better, moving faster, being the example and not the tag-along.  Exceeding customer expectations instead of slowly disappointing them.  I do think they will still offer some disappointments.  But we’ll know about them years earlier than we do no.

Do I really think Microsoft can pull this off?  Well, they already have.  Look at Live.com, and the entire “Live” strategy.  It would be, by any measure other than Microsoft, a HUGE success.

Ray will do this by being Ray, mostly.  Bill Gates is a smart guy, and he knew what he was doing wen he picked Ray.  In reality, Bill Gates could probably have picked almost anyone in the world to be his technical successor..  He chose Ray.  Bill is smart.  Ray is the guy that can plant a productivity seed and watch it turn into a profit plant.  And that’s because the most important people to the future of Microsoft believe in Ray so much that they will make him succeed.  Those people are the Microsoft employees.  Everyone likes a winner, and Ray will make them feel like winners again.

So how do these relatively small successes for the Live team add up to a major change in the way Microsoft acts?   For one, Live is getting all of the attention right now – the product with the right hype is the product everyone wants to work on.  Live is setting a new standard of development cycles at Microsoft – and a 6 year Operating System rollout just will never, ever happen again.

Every product outside of Microsoft Research will be pressed (mostly by peer pressure, I think) to build and test and release often.  Receive feedback.Make changes.  Test.  Release.

Software development at Microsoft has become a chess game – long contemplative moves following seemingly endless inactivity. 

In the future software development at Microsoft will be more like a Monday Night Football game – a game plan will be set, and often abandoned  early in the game.  Plays that work will be refined, and used again.  Busted plays won’t.  You won’t see another over-promised under-delivered Operating System.  You may see it late, but it will be what you were promised.

In fact, I would argue that we may only see one more Major version of a Windows Operating System release.  Windows Update is getting too good – there really isn’t going to be a need to release a new OS in the future.  You’ll get free updates, and upgrades you have to pay for.  The entire OS will be updated online.

These are the changes Ray Ozzie will drive – even if he doesn’t openly pus them.  Microsoft now knows that they have a higher expectation of execution.  That is what Ray brings them.