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'Of Course We Are In a Post-PC World,' Says Ray Ozzie 399

An anonymous reader writes "Speaking at a tech conference in Seattle this week, former Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie had some interesting things to say about the state of the computing industry. 'People argue about "are we in a post-PC world?" Why are we arguing? Of course we are in a post-PC world. That doesn't mean the PC dies, that just means that the scenarios that we use them in, we stop referring to them as PCs, we refer to them as other things.' Ozzie also thinks Microsoft's future as a company is strongly tied to Windows 8's reception. 'If Windows 8 shifts in a form that people really want to buy the product, the company will have a great future. ... It's a world of phones and pads and devices of all kinds, and our interests in general purpose computing — or desktop computing — starts to wane and people start doing the same things and more in other scenarios.'"
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'Of Course We Are In a Post-PC World,' Says Ray Ozzie

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  • by Sez Zero ( 586611 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @06:22PM (#39294423) Journal

    In the beginning, only the nerds had PCs.

    Then they went all mainstream. Mouses. Color Monitors. Facebook. There came a time when even little old ladies had a PC.

    That's now changing. Being in a "Post-PC world" just means that the little old ladies and other consumers of digital entertainment will use some other non-PC device.

    The best part: nerds will finally be left alone with their PCs. I, for one, look forward to this wonderful "Post-PC Utopia."

  • by nojayuk ( 567177 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @06:27PM (#39294491)

    Cinemas had curtains at the side of the screen that would move in and out when the projection ratio changed -- adverts used to be shown on 4:3 16mm film or 35mm slides but the main feature would be 2.35:1 or similar.

    Perhaps someone could come up with a similar curtain-type device for 16:9 screens, USB-driven perhaps, for those folks who absolutely insist on looking at a 4:3 ratio screen. It lets them view HD Youtube content in full 16:9 proportions but when they're focussed on their golden-ratio spreadsheet and don't want distractions the curtains will slide over to block the extra pixels from their sight.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @06:28PM (#39294519)

    I bought a desktop yesterday, because I still want to do some of the stuff you can't do on all your newfangled devices.
    I still want to write, draw, compose, and program.
    In a word, I want to create.
    How ironic that it used to be Apple that was known for empowering the creative types.

  • Re:Ruhroh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lgw ( 121541 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @06:29PM (#39294539) Journal

    "Ozzie also thinks Microsoft's future as a company is strongly tied to Windows 8's reception."

    They're doomed.

    They may well be. It's funny - I've been reading /. since before moderation, and for many years every year was going to be "the year of Linux on the desktop - this time for sure!" Well, now that that's become more of a running joke, it might actually become true. General purpose home computers will likely revert to a hobbyist thing before too many more years, and of course Linux will dominate at that point.

    Non-hobby home PCs are fading fast., and it's really just PC gaming keeping Windows on home-built rigs today, which is a shrinking niche. The release of the Steam phone apps (even though they aren't really selling games yet) heralds the end. Once the big MMOs shift their client focus to mobile platforms (and that's coming for sure), it won't take long before there's no real point in running Windows on your home-built PC except that virtualized XP instance you use for classic games.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @06:31PM (#39294573)

    There is a huge push to pry general computing out of the hands of citizens. Tablets are conditioning us for centralized storage (aka The Cloud), and if it ever gains traction, the next step will be to centralize processing power and "stream" the video output to our dumb terminals. It's all about controlling what people do on their systems, because they know they will never turn the internet into one-way information flow without wresting the processor and long-term storage from personal ownership. Once the corporate collective controls these, then we will be told what we can and cannot do with them, and how much we have to pay to do (or avoid) it. We really need to build a publicly-owned infrastructure for the net, let the high end of the market be controlled by Big Money.

  • Re:Ruhroh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @06:40PM (#39294695)

    I think their dominance in the home is because for a while they were the only choice if you didn't want to pay $$$ for overpriced hardware and a crappy OS - they basically had no competition. A significant percentage of the working population with home computers doesn't actually sit all day at a desk staring at a computer monitor (especially 15-20 years ago when MS took over the home market).

    Now that Apple has addressed those 2 issues (and just completely dominated in marketing and industrial design) the market has changed drastically...

  • Re:Ruhroh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @06:44PM (#39294781) Homepage Journal

    "And I have an Xbox, ps3, and a wii"

    Your example is irrelevant. You didn't choose.

  • Re:A Brave New World (Score:5, Interesting)

    by countach ( 534280 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @07:19PM (#39295221)

    Yeah, but haven't you noticed its better when someone takes a dump on your ipad compared to your keyboard? Much easier to clean up in my experience.

  • by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @07:28PM (#39295315) Homepage Journal

    I bought a new home last December. I got a pretty good deal, too, so there neener.

    But the process wasn't as simple as it was back in 2005. I had to come up with income and asset verification, file forms online and offline for everything, answer questions at a moment's notice, exchange offers and counteroffers as we negotiated over details, accept an appraisal while I was driving home from work, etc.

    My Android phone was all I had to work with. I could not create documents at work without having them signed from my employer. I couldn't send attachments via email. I couldn't go to several crucial websites. If not for the phone, I would not have been able to meet the deadlines.

    For that period, my Android phone was a PC.

    Now, if I bothered to work itout, a Bluetooth keyboard would make it 1000% better at that. And if I could jack it into a screen and an Ethernet jack, even better. That product is not very far in the future. The Transformer ain't it, quite, and the Motorola thing was too lame.

    But it's coming. Then I have to ditch my little notebook. the all-in-one will do that fine.

  • Re:Ruhroh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @07:48PM (#39295493)

    I think a lot of Microsoft's success with consumer-grade PCs has been because of their dominance in the business world. You go out to buy a home PC, you want the same sort of OS and tools that you find on your work computer.

    I think it used to work that way. Back in the day, computers were new and expensive. People's first experience was what they used at work. When they bought their computer from home, they bought the same one they were used to. Note that the hobbyists, who had experience with computers outside business, overwhelmingly turned to the Commodores, Amigas, Apples, Spectrums, etc.

    Now, though, people's first experience with computers is in their home. In fact, IT departments are seeing the opposite effect, where Apple users are demanding they be able to use the same system in business that they do at home. Now that computers are cheap, consumer items, instead of expensive business items slowly making a transition into the home, consumer experience is becoming more of a driving force than business experience.

  • Re:A Brave New World (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GodInHell ( 258915 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @07:48PM (#39295495) Homepage
    Short term thinking -- we're five years away from the first tool (phone/pad thing) intend to be used primarily by speaking to it and listening to its responses. 30 years later, illiteracy will hit new highs :D.


  • Re:A Brave New World (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gmack ( 197796 ) <gmackNO@SPAMinnerfire.net> on Thursday March 08, 2012 @08:00PM (#39295601) Homepage Journal

    No. I tried several brands of those and you are right they are annoying to type on and I hated them all. This is the HP Washable keyboard [smartplanet.com] another bonus was that I used to have an ancient keyboard that I loved because it felt *solid* but I lost it when I moved out of my parents house 11 years ago. This is the first keyboard that I've owned since then that feels solid enough that I actually don't find myself wishing for my old keyboard.

  • by Anthony Mouse ( 1927662 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @09:03PM (#39296153)

    I don't think that's really an accurate analogy. Bill Gates was a business guy. Microsoft's business model has been to identify and destroy any and all threats to Windows. It still is. The problem for them is that you can't win in the long-term when you're constantly playing defense like that. Eventually you get a competitor that you just can't kill before they become a significant player, and it all goes downhill from there.

    Apple is a different story. It's kind of hard to predict where they'll go from here, because their business model as a high-volume premium brand requires them to be continuously entering new markets. Because the old markets become commodity markets as competitors improve their products, which requires Apple to either lower their prices or lose market share. And they generally don't lower their prices, so you can see that e.g. Android has taken the pole position in the smart phone market, and is likely to take a large chunk of the tablet market within a year or two. When that happens, to stay on top, Apple has to enter a new market: Mac -> iPod -> iPhone -> iPad -> ? So what's next? And what's next after that?

    They may or may not be able to pull a couple more transitions like that off without Jobs, but it seems unlikely to continue indefinitely. In fact, what I would expect to get them sooner than their inability to make good on a product launch is that anyone of their size quickly starts accumulating powerful adversaries, telecommunications carriers, movie studios, Microsoft, etc., who notice Apple taking a huge chunk of their prospective margins and each make efforts to claw them back. I suspect Apple would have a serious problem price-wise if AT&T and Verizon both decided they were done subsidizing iOS devices, for example. And we all know what Microsoft is capable of when you threaten Windows dominance, etc.

  • by 0111 1110 ( 518466 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @09:05PM (#39296181)

    What's stopping you from selling your Ipad and buying a real computer that is designed to do real work? Does your Ipad have dual 30" screens? Does your Ipad have a 40 TB RAID array? Or how about 64 Gigs of RAM? Does your Ipad have the processing power of triple AMD HD7970s not just in terms of graphics, but also in terms of GPGPU work? Can your Ipad compete with the processing power of the latest Intel hexacore or octocore CPU?

    As a general purpose computer the Ipad just sucks. Can it compete with a netbook? Sure. Can it compete with a real computer? No. It's just an ultraportable device with all the compromises that entails. If you're a geek, it's a nice toy, but it won't ever replace a desktop computer or really even a laptop.

    I'm trying to figure out why you think of the Ipad as the future or as any sort of progress. To me, it seems like just a passing fad. Most definitely not the future. Powerful CPUs and GPUs and other coprocessors will always need cooling. Data storage will always take up space. Keyboards and mice may not be the future, but that doesn't mean touchscreens will. After all they are not even new technology. Larger computers will always have an advantage. In fact whatever replaces the current electrical/CPU model might be even larger than current desktop PCs. Computers of the future might even end up looking like a HAL 9000.

  • Re:Ruhroh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @09:26PM (#39296371)

    Most businesses are not profitable when they start, and many have a business model of selling a loss leader for future profit. That's how the Playstation started, and for a while (until the PS3 fiasco) it was Sony's most profitable business.

    The XBox 360 is only 5-6 years into its "10 year lifespan", and Microsoft has built a huge dedicated customer base with Live (40M paying Gold subscribers, many of whom, just like with Apple and iTunes are at least somewhat locked in with various DLC, games, movies, and gamer rating, etc). I think your information about the Xbox's profitability is way out of date - Xbox/entertainment now makes up about 20% of Microsoft's total revenue, compared to about 30% for its business division.

    Wagering a careful look (ie a couple Google searches for quotes), from their last quarterly releases & analysis:

    "Microsoft's strongest growth came from the Entertainment division where the Xbox resides, however. That group's revenue jumped 14 percent to $4.24 billion, a new high. The Xbox 360 installed base now totals approximately 66 million consoles and 18 million Kinect sensors, Microsoft said. Xbox Live now has 40 million members worldwide, an increase of 33 percent from the prior year period."

    "Microsoft's fourth-quarter results showed an interesting shift, as Microsoft's Xbox business unit threatens to pass its Windows division in terms of revenue. If the current trends continue, Windows and its related businesses could rank fourth within the company, ahead of its perpetually money-losing online business."

    I'm sure praising anything Microsoft has done in any way will get me modded down (I already see my first comment was "Overrated" and my 2nd "Underrated", nice!) - but you have to give some credit where it's due in this case, they stuck with it and finally figured out how to build a real business around the Xbox.

  • Re:Ruhroh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:32PM (#39297189)

    Vista was in the works before OSX was. I know ignorant Apple fan boys like to spread shit.

    Great place for me to chime in. I use both OS's

    TechRepublic had a bit about the Windows 8 consumer preview. On my Vista laptop, I figured I'd give it a try. Downloaded it, installed it. I chose the option that seemed safest.

    After playing with it a while, and deciding that Windows 8 made Vista look like a well thought out system, I looked to see how to remove the preview. I didn't see anything. Then I went online, and saw that you don't install the freaking preview!

    It takes your program folder, then renames it, to Programs.old, then installs the Windows 8 OS. Everything on your computer is busted up. Your option is to reinstall your old system from scratch.

    Being more than a little pissed, I went back to Microsoft's website. The best info on this bit of genius had to be found with a search - not on the download page. There was a little bit on the bottom of one download page about the no uninstall feature.

    So yeah, in some respects it was my "fault" Biggest fault on my end was trusting Microsoft. But yes, I suppose I should have read every word and taken every link and even thought of random stuff that might bite me in the backside. But as I once told a customer service person who's idea of service was to blame everything on the customer, even when their business ignored my instructions, "I'll just take my business some place where I don't make these mistakes." What the hell type of company thinks it is a good practice to put out a preview that hoses the previewer's computers in the first place? And if so, put the warning at the top of the page, prominently.

    I've never had those type of experiences on my Mac's or my Linux computers.

    p.s., The Windows 8 preview was pretty awful. From having to pull up a window to expose a log-in window, to the weird full screen Commodore 64 graphics on the smartphone screen that greets you next, then closing that to make something that sort of looks like a desktop, to changing the way you access everything (they're big on Office style ribbons) it is just very clumsy. There should be no need to force a change in how we navigate - the interface just gets in the way. A Mac user from the late 80's could figure out how to use OSX Lion pretty quickly. A Windows 95 user and Windows 8? Not at all. I had to do a search to figure out how to shut down. It's not on the start menu any more (sorta good), you have to mouse to the lower right hand corner, then carefully move the pointer up to some icons that will pop up. Anyhow, it's ugly, clumsy, and doesn't do anything that well. Still has notepad - a plus, and I liked the little goldfish on the "desktop" screen. p.s p.s. Installed Linux on the laptop that W8 hosed. All is well. Only one computer left running Windows.

  • Re:They're fucked. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by brillow ( 917507 ) on Friday March 09, 2012 @01:42AM (#39297815)

    Could it be that MS doesn't care what you want?

    Maybe because people like you are not who this product is aimed at?

    Could it be that MS knows good and well that having 29 windows and a million tabs open at once is a highly UNCOMMON usage for their OS and they could tell you exactly where you fit on the tail of that distribution?

    The question is not "How does a slashdotter use their computer?" It's "How does a slashdotter's mom use a computer?"

    My mom usually just has a browser open. Once a week she will fire up picasa, and once a month she will fire up word or excel. MS has said their own data tells them that the average person only uses about 11 applications, and only around 3 at the same time. They are trying to streamline the interface such that the average user can do what they do more easily, while still allowing us nerds to use the desktop we are familiar with.

    Some nerds will still complain though that they (1) Don't like metro, and (2) can't believe microsoft still has the ugly old desktop underneath.

    When really its just a clever way to make the interface simple for those who want it, and still powerful and flexible for those who want more. They're giving it all to us and it looks pretty great.

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"