Ozzie's note seemed "doomsday-ish" to Miller, but the concern is warranted. "He's telling Microsoft that it needs to look forward or you're not going to own the market in the future," Miller said. "He's trying to get Microsoft to start thinking about a day when the hegemony of Windows is a thing of the past."
To do that, Ozzie said Microsoft must stress simplicity over complexity, and essentially said that the 25-year-old Windows and its surrounding ecosystem was an example of the latter.
"Complexity kills," said Ozzie. "Complexity sucks the life out of users, developers and IT. Complexity makes products difficult to plan, build, test and use. Complexity introduces security challenges. Complexity causes administrator frustration."
Miller agreed. "Microsoft needs to focus on simplicity," he said.
But turning around Microsoft won't be easy. It's a huge company, with revenues and inertia to match.
"My frustration is that it's a big ship, and the velocity with which the boat is going will make it hard," Miller said. "You're talking about competing with companies that are, if not out-innovating Microsoft, then out-pacing them."
It's unlikely Ozzie's words came as a surprise to people at the top of Microsoft's organization chart. "This may be the last chance for Ray Ozzie to make his thoughts known, but I think he's said this internally for a long time. It fits with everything he's been doing at Microsoft," Miller said.
Miller was hopeful that Ozzie's words would find fertile ground. "My hope is that it brings some soul searching to Microsoft," Miller said. "I can't imagine someone at Microsoft not walking away from this without thinking that Ray's right."
But he was also realistic. "From my time at Microsoft, it totally depends on the individual executive whether this is accepted," he concluded.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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