Memo urges Microsoft to plan for the death of PCs

Former executive Ray Ozzie told Microsoft employees that the vision of a "PC on every desktop" is slowly winding down

Tablets and smartphones are just the beginning of a "Post-PC world," former Microsoft executive Ray Ozzie wrote in parting memo to the company.

Ozzie took Bill Gates' place as chief software architect for Microsoft in 2006, and the company announced his retirement last week. A letter to his colleagues, titled "Dawn of a New Day," takes an optimistic look at the future, but warns the company that its vision of a "PC on every desktop" is slowly winding down.

"And so at this juncture ... it's important that all of us do precisely what our competitors and customers will ultimately do: close our eyes and form a realistic picture of what a post-PC world might actually look like, if it were to ever truly occur," Ozzie wrote.

Ozzie envisions a future of powerful Web services that are independent of hardware, and appliance-like devices that "we'll wear, we'll carry, we'll use on our desks & walls and the environment all around us." The mouse and keyboard will be eclipsed by natural interfaces that sense the user's position, movement and touch.

Ozzie avoids specifics in his memo. He doesn't name products from Microsoft or its competitors; his only mentions of Windows is in the context of existing or past products. So I might be wrong in my interpretation, but I think the implications are obvious: Microsoft, start planning for a future without Windows.

Apple's iPad is the first step. Its inability to act like a fully functioning PC is the subject of constant debate, but to scoff at its popularity is exactly the kind of attitude Ozzie is warning against. This is a taste of the future, where being a powerful personal computer isn't as important as delivering popular Web services in a natural interface. On the software side, Google seems to be driving at the same idea with Chrome OS, trimming the fat of traditional PCs and leaving behind only the browser.

Obviously, Ozzie is trying to peer decades into the future, warning Microsoft that if it wants to be as relevant then as it is today, it needs to start planning for a world of powerful Web-based services and dead-simple devices to access them. The change will be subtle, Ozzie says, but it's already happening.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags consumer electronicsGoogleMicrosoftsmartphoneshardware systemsdesktop pcsPhoneslaptopsnetbookscomputers

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jared Newman

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?