PDC 2009 Day 1, post-keynote: What are we learning so far?
What we're seeing evidence of today is a kind of Microsoft restructuring in progress -- a slow shift toward a future revenue model that actually began about two years ago. Rather than alert Dow Jones as to the need for major structural change, the company did what its MVPs have always suggested enterprises do for themselves: Don't panic, plan, and take things slowly.
But this means juggling a lot of balls in the air in mid-transition, the move to a more global network-centric and license-based revenue model. So individuals who were looking for the launch of a boxed product today, something with a jazz theme and a celebrity to accompany it, were probably disappointed -- but that's no evidence of the lack of a strategy. We're seeing a framework shift, and if you look at Microsoft using the old frame, you don't see the whole picture.
That's not to say the shift toward Azure as a services platform isn't a huge gamble that could fail altogether. But with Amazon's announcement last week of a kind of applications development platform on top of its EC2 infrastructure, if Microsoft's gamble goes down in flames, at least it won't go down alone: There's a genuine market here with major players and real innovators, Microsoft among them. Keeping developers "in the family" is critical to keeping the first great services-based applications on the Windows platform that Microsoft already built.
Otherwise, if developers start playing the table and jumping ship elsewhere, Microsoft could end up surrendering the cloud...the way it appears it may be surrendering its market space in mobile.
When Vivek Kundra demonstrated the Azure-based mobile job finder application this morning running on an iPhone, there was an audible "O-o-o-h" from attendees at this morning's keynote; and although Kundra made certain never to invoke the word "iPhone" or refer to the phone, he did say the app was built and deployed in a matter of days -- an indication that Microsoft was thinking about reaching customers where they lived and worked, even if it's outside its platform.
I remember hearing "O-o-o-h" before, a quarter-century ago when Microsoft started creating its very first graphical applications for Macintosh. That gamble paid off.
The job of giving identity to the cloud concept has been left to Bob Muglia, whose annual funny video this morning wasn't too far off the mark from reality: In the video, he acts as a kind of personal, spiritual counselor for "the cloud," who in this case was an idea borrowed from a recent ad campaign for Bob Evans Restaurants. Here "The Cloud" is trying to find a purpose for itself, and Muglia's advice is that the cloud can be anything and everything it wants to be...whatever that is.
Then The Cloud takes Muglia's advice.
Good try there, cloud! Better luck next time.