How Ozzie got Microsoft's groove back

Things have definitely changed at Microsoft, and it's clear Ray Ozzie is a big part of the reason for it. Microsoft seems to have a bit of a swagger again. Case in point, the comprehensive PDC announcements with Windows Azure, Windows 7, Live synchronization and Office apps in the cloud last week. Everyone expected Microsoft to drip and drop little pieces of the cloud strategy out to us at PDC, but Ozzie said forget that, here's how the whole thing works and how it works together. Rather than hosting, tools, or repackaged software for the cloud, Ozzie brought out a full platform strategy that Microsoft is betting the farm on. Windows Azure isn't a baby step, it's a slap in the face to Amazon, Google, Salesforce and every other company that's stuck one in the eye of Microsoft.

(Here are some more pics from the Microsoft PDC kickoff last week.)

Windows Live Spaces

Same for Office apps. First, they aren't warmed-over, crippled Web versions of Word and Excel. They look and feel very much like the desktop versions of the software. But rather than just announce the online Office apps, Microsoft rolled them out as a collaboration solution using Live Services to synchronize data being shared by multiple users. That was bold, very bold. It's Microsoft again focusing on improving how we use computers and applications, much like Windows 7 is doing for the desktop OS.  And rather than retrenching, basically foretelling the death of the desktop OS, Microsoft is boldly stating the desktop OS isn't going away and it has a very important role as one of the devices in the mesh of platforms we use every day.

Same with touch interfaces. Apple's revolutionized the smartphone with its touch interface; and now Google, Blackbery, LG, HTC and everyone else are bringing similar products to market. Microsoft isn't waiting for Apple to do the same on the desktop. It's pushing touch interface very heavily, showing many demos on HP touch computers, rigged-up monitors with touch interfaces, and the Microsoft Surface technology.

Lastly, Microsoft's "I'm a PC" campaign. Rather than fight fire with fire, Microsoft's FINALLY responding to Apple's barrage of commercials and saying, you know what -- it's okay, I'm proud to be a PC user. Yes, Windows Vista was one heck of a screw-up, from both a product and public relations standpoint, but Microsoft's responding and moving on. You could tell at several PDC presentations that folks have looked pretty deeply at why Vista was such a debacle, but most importantly, they've picked up and moved on, vowing not to repeat those mistakes again.

So I say "bravo," Microsoft, take your hits, nurse your wounds, but move on and move on boldly. Not arrogantly -- that era is over. We don't want any more of Gates' bullying shtick. Move on boldly. Be passionate, but be passionate about users and improving their experience.

They say fish stinks from the head, and while that's true, I say great leadership starts at the top too. I think we are seeing some of the impact Ozzie is having at Microsoft. It's a nice change.

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