OUT OF THE BLUE
ZDNet Richard MacManus's takeaway from Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie's "Christmas Message" post yesterday can be summarized as:
"Now that Microsoft has Web Tech royalty in-house in the form of Ray Ozzie, I'm expecting big competition for Google next year in the Web software arena."
That statement will continue to be true for years to come, not just the coming year. And that competition will SLOWLY change the businesses and business models of both Microsoft and Google as well, over a period of years.
However, of all the GYMAAAE companies, the company that likely will see the most changes in it's business, and MAYBE SOME in it's business model next year, is the company that I felt was ignored by both Bill Gates and Ray Ozzie in the now infamous "leaked memos" earlier this year. As I described it in a post at the time:
"Regardless of how it's done, the fact remains that APPLE is poised to employ a variety of strategies this time around that could result in increased market share on consumer desktops and laptops against the Windows world, for the first time in years.
And it should have potentially made it into one of the Microsoft Memos as a threat to watch."
We could start seeing some of these potential changes get underway next month, as Apple launches it's first computers based on Intel chips. And that offers certain "game changing" opportunities to Apple vs. Microsoft for the first time in decades. I riffed on some possible types of product strategies that could emerge in a post back in August.
Given all the critical software and infrastructure battles afoot, most of the current media focus is on how a PC based operating and applications platform may give way to a network based operating and applications environment across many types of fixed and mobile devices, via wired and wireless connections. That is true, and will take at least the next five years to come to fruition.
But these changes also present opportunities for a shift in the HARDWARE platforms consumers use as well. The underlying approaches taken to how we compute today are being shaken to the core.
As Ray Ozzie says in his post yesterday:
Ray, for all his accomplishments, is a SOFTWARE guy, and he's talking about the software infrastructure "Builds" that excite him most. But it's more than just about software.
It's not just about Word, Excel, Outlook and Powerpoint files that a user maintains on a PC or across a corporate network. It's about ANY INFORMATION in digital form that's RELEVANT to the user being accessible at any time, across a GLOBAL network.
Apple showed this to be true coming at it from the MUSIC front, when you exquisitely design BOTH the software AND the hardware to work together from scratch.
You take just what you need in a variety of form factors from a BIG AND GROWING POOL of it out on the Internet. Whether you pick the relatively big Video iPod, or the diminutive iPod Nano is a matter of personal choice made possible by Apple's laser focus on the role HARDWARE can play in how this type of digital content is consumed.
The same ideas apply to general personal computing as well, and we've BARELY BEGUN to break away from the relatively rigid HARDWARE computing framework that's defined that interaction for the past thirty years.
Next year offers an opportunity to more clearly see this shift, assuming Apple continues to try and do for general computing what it's done for music to date.
So for Microsoft, it's not just about Google and Yahoo! anymore.