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Thoughts on Microsoft’s Future

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The recent Microsoft news (Scoble leaving, Gates taking a reduced role, Ray Ozzie stepping up) combined with the last 10 years worth of evolution in networking and of the web really got me wondering about Microsoft’s role in the future.

Thoughts On Microsoft's Future
What’s Microsoft’s Next Move?

Specifically, I have three problems in mind. Solving any one of them will make someone very, very rich and improve computing for the rest of us. Solving all of them will show the world who the top technology company is for the 21st century.

Web/Desktop Bridge
The way I see it, desktop applications are not going away. Web applications are not going away. But web applications are changing user expectations about how desktop applications should behave, be distributed, and be priced.

But there are very few desktop applications that work “natively” with the web. Applications are, for the most part, either desktop-centric or web-centric. I’ve seen few (if any) that were designed with both in mind.

Nobody has made it easy to bridge that gap. There’s little infrastructure or guidance in place today. Live Clipboard could be the beginning of that.

Device Bridge and Synchronization
We have desktops, laptops, palmtops, game consoles, PVRs, and “set tops” with Internet connections and useful data to share. But they’re all islands of different sorts. The devices often aren’t aware of each other. And even when they are, interoperability is a craps shoot.

We need a way for devices of all shapes and sizes to be able to speak and share/sync data in a meaningful fashion. And given that no one company (so far) dominates on all of these platforms, a real solution is likely to be comprised of open file formats and protocols.

A New OS
We need a new operating system. And I don’t mean the “Internet Operating system” that Tim O’Reilly often speaks of. I mean that someone needs to re-think what “personal computer operating system” should mean in an age when the vast majority of computers will be on the Internet most of the time.

We all need it but most of us don’t know that yet.

After all that thinking has been done, someone needs to build it and support it.

All Signs Point to Microsoft
I honestly can’t think of more than one company that has the assets necessary to do all three.

I can think of a lot of companies that could solve one of those problems–maybe two. But when you look at all three of them, only Microsoft seems to have what it takes.

The $60 billion question is whether or not they can pull it off. In my mind, all three of those are vital to the future of Microsoft.

What do you think?

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Jeremy Zawodny is the author of the popular Jeremy Zawodny’s blog. Jeremy is part of the Yahoo search team and frequently posts in the Yahoo! Search blog as well.

Visit Jeremy’s blog: Jeremy Zawodny’s blog.

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