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Ray Ozzie Talks SaaS In His First Outing

UPDATED: Ray Ozzie made his first major appearance in the role of Chief Software Architect of Microsoft before the company's annual financial analyst meeting.

His speech centered around software as a service, but perhaps more notable was who wasn't at the day-long meeting: the man he replaced, Bill Gates.

CEO Steve Ballmer said Gates was "someplace in Africa at this stage enjoying his vacation."

That alone is newsworthy, as Gates set the bar for workaholic endurance few could match. But Ozzie handled the duties well, continuing Microsoft's mantra of software as a service and almost sounding like Salesforce.com's Marc Benioff at times when discussing how to help users get a job done.

"Since our historical success has been PC-centric, it's only natural to think that we might have taken a PC-centric view of how to fulfill these experiences," Ozzie said.

"Even in cases where the experience is best delivered by writing applications for the PC, when considering the overall user experience that we're trying to achieve, we now start with a service-centric perspective."

Since his arrival at Microsoft  last year via the acquisition of his company, Groove Networks, Ray Ozzie has been very good about getting Microsoft into the online services field.

Dwight Davis, vice president and practice director of Summit Strategies, told internetnews.com at the time of Ozzie's promotion.

"He clearly deserves credit of late in getting Microsoft engaged in the online services world much more than it had been prior to his arrival," said Davis. "Microsoft had been remiss in not pushing harder into that space."

Ozzie spoke at length about "the cheap revolution," where hardware has become a such a low-cost commodity that great computing power is available in even the smallest of devices, such as a cell phone.

"The cheap revolution has enabled us to have the best of both worlds, utilizing incredibly powerful centralized data centers together with powerful devices for incomparable hybrid user experiences and solutions driven by software," said Ozzie.

This is leading to a shift into new software design, called services transformation, which is a new way of designing applications and a new method for delivering that service to the customer.

It will begin with the general population, which uses the Internet as the hub of their activities before moving into small businesses and eventually large corporations.

"Individuals on the Web, armed with nothing more than a browser and a search engine and word of mouth, discover new products and services of all kinds," Ozzie said.

"They try them, they buy them, they experience them, recommend them, they maintain their vendor relationships online."

For this reason, the user is in control, and industries and companies will have to operate under the perspective of an online, connected, end-user.

So Microsoft is shifting its center of attention away from the PC and starting with the Internet service.

"We frame the question, 'How can we best accomplish the experience we want, taking advantage of the ability of centralized services to enable seamless end-to-end experiences for the user?'" said Ozzie.

Microsoft's goal, then is to create seamless Web, desktop and mobile experience for all activities relevant to users and customers in all of its markets.

He said the company plans to accomplish this through Windows Live acting as the "experience hub" to unite users with the PC, browser and mobile device as the delivery mechanisms.

Windows Live will serve in three distinct roles: allow developers to create open, interoperable broadscale services; observe and aggregate behavioral activity while respecting user privacy, to improve service; and as a common back-end supporting advertising, subscriptions and transactions.

By making data more portable and accessible from any location, Ozzie believes this may actually increase the number of devices deployed.

"We're reducing the burden of owning multiple devices and replicated documents, so it's not unreasonable to think we will catalyze some additional PC purchases," he said.

By removing the barriers to sharing, contributing and working together, applications will serve to make exchanges between people more liquid, and information will be less tied to a device.

"I believe that by embracing services in most everything we do, the potential for this company to impact the lives of individuals and the operations of businesses has never been greater," he concluded.

Ballmer closed the show with some departing comments, including a promise that there won't be another big gap in operating system releases.

"Some of the things we work on will take a number of years. We will never repeat our experience with Windows Vista again. We will never have a five-year gap between major releases of flagship products."