Legendary software developer and outgoing Microsoft executive Ray Ozzie has some parting advice for the software giant: start thinking outside the box -- i.e., the PC -- or risk becoming obsolete in the next five years.
Ozzie, who announced he was leaving Microsoft last week after five years with the company, penned a memo titled "Dawn of a New Day" that outlines Microsoft recent achievements but focuses more on the company's challenges going forward.
Ozzie is one of many Microsoft executives that have left the company since the launch of Microsoft's much maligned Windows Vista.
Ozzie begins the memo, curiously dated Oct. 28, by commending Microsoft for moving more toward Internet-based services, a goal he outlined in another famous memo titled "The Internet Services Disruption" when he joined Microsoft in 2005.
"Our products are now more relevant than ever. Bing has blossomed and its advertising, social, metadata & real-time analytics capabilities are growing to power every one of our myriad services offerings," Ozzie wrote in "Dawn of a New Day." "Over the years the Windows client expanded its relevance even with the rise of low-cost netbooks. Office expanded its relevance even with a shift toward open data formats & web-based productivity. Our server assets have had greater relevance even with a marked shift toward virtualization & cloud computing."
But Ozzie goes on to write that despite some progress, some key opportunities for Microsoft "remain elusive and have yet to be realized" and states that "[competitors'] execution has surpassed our own in mobile experiences, in the seamless fusion of hardware & software & services, and in social networking & myriad new forms of internet-centric social interaction."
The real challenge for Microsoft, Ozzie wrote, will be to not only prepare for but to also embrace a "post-PC world" where the old of computing being tied to a box becomes extinct. "For the most part, we've grown to perceive of 'computing' as being equated with specific familiar 'artifacts' such as the 'computer', the 'program' that's installed on a computer, and the 'files' that are stored on that computer's 'desktop'," Ozzie wrote in the memo. "For the majority of users, the PC is largely indistinguishable even from the 'browser' or 'internet'."
NEXT: Ozzie's Vision of Microsoft's Future
Ozzie states in his memo that Microsoft needs to match the speed and innovation displayed by some of its competitors in order to keep up with the rapidly changing technology market. "[I]t's important that all of us do precisely what our competitors and customers will ultimately do: close our eyes and form a realistic picture of what a post-PC world might actually look like, if it were to ever truly occur," Ozzie wrote. "How would customers accomplish the kinds of things they do today? In what ways would it be better? In what ways would it be worse, or just different?"
Specifically, Ozzie describes how continuously connected devices from tablets to smartphones are changing users' behavior and how cloud computing is transforming the way those users access information.
"As we've begun to embrace today's incredibly powerful app-capable phones and pads into our daily lives, and as we've embraced myriad innovative services & websites," Ozzie wrote, "the early adopters among us have decidedly begun to move away from mentally associating our computing activities with the hardware/software artifacts of our past such as PC's, CD-installed programs, desktops, folders & files.
"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," Ozzie stated. "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."
While Ozzie outlines many challenges for Microsoft, his memo ends on a note of optimism for the software giant. "Let there be no doubt that the big shifts occurring over the next five years ensure that this will absolutely be a time of great opportunity for those who put past technologies & successes into perspective, and envision all the transformational value that can be offered moving forward to individuals, businesses, governments and society," he wrote. "It's the dawn of a new day – the sun having now arisen on a world of continuous services and connected devices."