Via BoingBoing, an interesting analysis on Wired about Ray Ozzie‘s ascension as Microsoft’s new chief software architect, and what that means in light of the company’s current business model and role as an innovator.
Microsoft is no longer seem as the boogeyman of the software industry, even though it still holds its dominant position in the market. The articles does an interesting job in detailing the historical reasons for that and–even though it fails to resist the temptation to compare Microsoft to IBM–it also points out the possibilities represented by the moves already initiated by Ozzie and his allies at Microsoft. Nobody would say, a few years ago, that users and developers using Internet Explorer would have to deal with the consequences of something like the Eolas ruling. That’s what happened, nonetheless, and it’s one of the things the represent the shift in market perception about Microsoft–probably as much as the impact of open source and interoperability efforts–in the way Microsoft is trying to reeducate itself for a new generation of consumers.
The article reflects some of the doom mantras that mirror the zelot style of the declared enemies of the company, but I think bridges are much more interesting in this case. I have been working with companies which base their products exclusively on Microsoft technology for yeqrs already and seeing the way they look at the “world outside,” it’s easy to understand the disbelief expressed by the article–as evidenced by Cory Doctorow’s reaction to the article.
Nonetheless, I think it’s easy to see what a radical change in Microsoft would means to industry. Ironically, I think that may happen as a result of automatic inertia inside the company, something that would not be visible for outsiders today. Since I’m an outsider as well, I can’t say for sure that that is what going to happen. In a company like Microsoft, though, anything is possible.
The future will tell which vision of Microsoft reinvention will come to pass. But it would not be the first time the company succeeded–and maybe they will succeed for better this time, learning from the past.