Tech Ed keynote: Ozzie touts software as service

Jack Vaughan
Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie

Microsoft managers described the company's' plans for delivering software as services, at the kickoff keynote to its yearly TechEd technical forum in Boston. Chief Technical Officer Ray Ozzie said a major era of technology change was ahead, one that he described as an era of "services disruption."

Just last week, the company launched its Windows Live Dev site in beta mode at The site is said to lower the barrier of entry to allow the greatest number of developers to participate. Windows Live is pledged to support multiple platforms and browsers, and support HTTP-based APIs. The site, in fact will serve in part as a so-called Web service mashup, using to provide developer content.

At TechEd Ozzie said he foresees a new era of "services disruption" as consumers and businesses use Web-borne applications to perform common tasks. According to Ozzie, "the services disruption will have significant impact on corporate IT and the way we think about both infrastructure and business solutions."

Microsoft's services initiatives have rolled out as betas in the past year. A host of services under such names as Windows Live and Office Live are seen as Microsoft's hedge against Google and Yahoo, companies with large Web infrastructures that have begun to add browser-based software applications.

With much still at stake in its desktop productivity businesses, Microsoft will have to carefully negotiate "software as a service" as it protects its strong position on the desktop.

"We believe a blended client-server approach will help IT departments tackle these challenges," said Ozzie.

The emerging services business has been spearheaded by Ozzie, who came to Microsoft in March 2005 when the company bought Ozzie's Groove Networks, a collaboration technology firm. Prior to his work at Groove, Ozzie gained acclaim as one of the minds behind Lotus Notes, the groupware platform that IBM later purchased. Given Ozzie's heavy involvement with Notes, his move to Microsoft was a tough pill for many in the IT industry to swallow.

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Six months after the Groove purchase, Ozzie was given an expanded role that included Microsoft's software-based services. He wasted little time in this role, first heralding the unveiling of Windows Live and Office Live -- free Web-based collaboration services aimed at smaller customers -- and then imploring developers to embrace software as a service.

The Live effort has seen much expansion in recent months, from map, search and e-mail capabilities to the Windows Live Experimentation Platform, a place for developers to play around with gadgets before Microsoft rolls them out.

In March of this year, Ozzie announced his latest effort, the Live Clipboard. With this implementation -- an orange copy and paste button for data like an address book contact or a meeting notice -- Ozzie hopes to standardize the way users and applications share information.

TechEd as a developer showcase has diminished in recent years. Instead, data center offerings have become prominent. Most of the keynote, which was moderated by Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the Server and Tools Business, was dedicated to data center offerings that help the company compete against more established enterprise software players, most notably IBM.

Muglia announced Microsoft Forefront, a new family of security and access products. He also said a beta 2 of Exchange Server 2007 would be available by the end of July. A new beta of System Center Operations manager 2007 was also announced.

As well, Microsoft outlined its strategy to grow its Office offering via new workflow, search and cataloging capabilities added to 2007 Microsoft Office system.

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