What Microsoft Mesh Means To You

Just when I thought Microsoft was trying to out-Google Google , now we have another Microsoft pre-announcement mega-strategy, the "device mesh" strategy, but no real Microsoft products that yet deliver on five year unfolding strategy.

I was feeling pretty proud of myself for piecing together Microsoft's online software plus services strategy, and thinking Microsoft changed it's spots by not going public with it. But not so fast, Quckdraw McGraw. Microsoft blurts the whole thing out at the Mix 08 conference. Plop, an amorphous new Microsoft strategy to confuse everybody while Microsoft gets its act together.

But Microsoft had to go public with this, and now was the timing to do it. Ray Ozzie had to come out from behind the curtain, showing us he is the chief software architect to lead Microsoft and the industry into the future. Microsoft had to announce, lest Google continue to dominate leadership mind share of the web 2.0 on demand application space.

Alright, enough complaining. Let me give you my take on what Microsoft's strategy is really about, some of it interpretation of Ray Ozzie's announcements this week, and also my own views of where Microsoft is going.

Microsoft has to transform from traditional embedded software, to software that lives in the cloud, creating fluidity amongst computing and data elements on the desktop, laptop, phone, home, car, data center, on demand software.

Behind the scenes, Microsoft has been incrementally evolving it's technologies and products to web services based interfaces. Today, though we don't do this yet, it's technically possible to create an entirely new UI layer for products like Microsoft CRM using web services. The services part of the "software plus services" has much broader implications than just hosting products online. Services is also about web services and Microsoft products (Server 2008, SharePoint, SQL Server Data Services, etc.) that can be utilized from the cloud or from the data center, or a combination.

The idea of the traditional data center and the physical location of our compute, software and data services, becomes transparent and can be served from anywhere within the cloud. Our corporate data centers become virtual elements within the cloud, rather than the standalone islands of today.

This is not just a futures strategy, but also a transitionary one. That's one of the things that's hugely important about Microsoft's new strategy. This transitionary strategy lets Microsoft continue to sell and deploy traditional embedded software, like they sell today, while over time moving more and more of their products move into combined hosted and on demand delivery models.

Microsoft also says software plus services is about choice . That means customers can chose to run Office, for example, on their desktop as a traditional application, partially distributed into the cloud (maybe core components are resident while others are streamed), fully streamed applications, and on demand software and services that live entirely in the cloud.

Microsoft's announcement to make APIs, file formats, etc., is also all about this new mesh strategy. As the web services, protocols, APIs, formats, etc., within Microsoft products mature, those interfaces will be exposed and published by Microsoft. That to some degree, opens up Microsoft technologies for other products and technologies to integrate and interoperate with Microsoft. The question yet remains how Microsoft will deal with commercial software creators who want to use web services, APIs and file formats to participate in this new mesh ecosystem. Microsoft's interoperability commitment announcements doesn't address how the rest of the world plays with Microsoft.

Microsoft's "mesh" web 2.0 strategy is actually much bigger than web 2.0 itself. It's an audacious strategy, which I applaud Ray Ozzie and Microsoft for. But it can't be a go-it-alone strategy. The strategy is too big for even Microsoft to swallow by itself. Right now, Microsoft is generating momentum and leadership. Next we need to start seeing the broader ecosystem around Microsoft's new strategy.

Like this? Here are some of Mitchell's recent posts.

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