The New York Times asks if Ray Ozzie is the person who can “reprogram Microsoft.”
The Internet, Round 2, is now under way. Again, the computing terrain is changing remarkably, helped along by free software like Linux and the spread of high-speed Internet access. Today, all kinds of computing experiences can be delivered as services over the Internet, often free and supported by advertising. Clever Internet software can now turn flat, view-and-read Web pages into snappy services that look and respond to a user’s keystrokes much like the big software applications that reside on a PC hard drive. New companies are even sprouting up to offer Web-based word processors and spreadsheets, products long regarded as mature – and long dominated by Microsoft’s desktop programs.
The man whom Mr. Gates is counting on to make a difference is Ray Ozzie, a soft-spoken 50-year-old who joined the company just eight months ago. He has the daunting task of galvanizing the troops to address the Internet services challenge, shaking things up and quickening the corporate pulse.
The forces arrayed against Microsoft, analysts say, may well prove more formidable than ever. “The problem Microsoft faces today is that there is a totally different model emerging for how software is created, distributed, used and paid for,” said George F. Colony, the chairman of Forrester Research, a technology consultant. “That’s why it’s going to be so difficult for Microsoft this time.”
Yet there are optimists. Big industry shifts, they say, create opportunity. Inevitably, they note, Internet computing erodes Microsoft’s power to set technology standards, but the company can still benefit as the overall market expands. That’s what happened in the 1990’s. They say that if Microsoft shrewdly devises, for example, online versions of its Office products, supported by advertising or subscription fees, it may be a big winner in Internet Round 2.