It has been a year of transition for Microsoft in 2008, with the biggest being co-founder and company icon Bill Gates stepping aside and Ray Ozzie assuming the role of chief software architect. On the technology side, Microsoft's services push dominated its agenda. Microsoft introduced Azure, its cloud operating system, and released online versions of Exchange and SharePoint, two of its most popular infrastructure servers. "Exchange Online could be a sleeper product," says Peter O'Kelly, principal analyst with O'Kelly Consulting. In addition, the company revealed it was developing for the first time Web-based online versions of popular Office applications. It's all a setup for what will define Microsoft's 2009. Here is a look at five key issues and a handful of honorable mentions that will be in the spotlight over the next 12 months.
[ Get the rundown on the linchpin products of Microsoft's 2009 strategy: Windows Azure, Hyper-V for Windows Server 2008, and Windows 7 | Flame war! InfoWorld's Randall C. Kennedy and OSNews' Thom Holwerda go head to head over how to assess Windows 7's changes. ]
1. Pay attention to that man behind the curtain
The wizardry of Oz -- Ray Ozzie, that is -- will have a profound impact on Microsoft in 2009, and every eye will be on the successor to Bill Gates. Ozzie had a winner's grin in October when he introduced Azure, Microsoft's cloud operating system two years in the making. Now, he must define the platform, fill in its gaps, and convince developers they should get behind it and push. Then he has to finish painting Microsoft's story around software-plus-services. It is no less than a generational shift for Microsoft, and 2009 should set the tone for Ozzie's legacy. Can he rescue the company from the "services disruption" he claimed could be the very death of Microsoft in a 2005 memo sent to employees? It's a question without an answer right now, but one thing is clear, he's not in Kansas anymore.