Former top Microsoft exec says world is over the PC

SEATTLE Wed Mar 7, 2012 9:46pm EST

A web-user views the global networking site called Xing in Stockholm, November 20, 2008. REUTERS/Bob Strong/Files

A web-user views the global networking site called Xing in Stockholm, November 20, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Bob Strong/Files

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SEATTLE (Reuters) - Ray Ozzie, the man who succeeded Bill Gates as Microsoft Corp's tech visionary, believes the world has moved past the personal computer, potentially leaving behind the world's largest software company.

The PC, which was Microsoft's foundation and still determines the company's financial performance, has been nudged aside by powerful phones and tablets running Apple Inc and Google Inc software, the former Microsoft executive said.

"People argue about 'are we in a post-PC world?'. Why are we arguing? Of course we are in a post-PC world," Ozzie said at a technology conference run by tech blog GeekWire in Seattle on Wednesday.

"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 was making his first public comments on Microsoft since stepping down from the tech giant abruptly in 2010. He spoke just hours after Tim Cook, the chief executive of Microsoft's arch-rival Apple, stressed the emergence of the "post-PC world" forged by the iPad.

Sales of smartphones have already overtaken PCs, and tablets are catching up fast. For a graphic on relative sales, click on

The 56-year old legendary programmer, who developed e-mail application Lotus Notes in the 1980s and 1990s, was hand-picked by Gates to take over his role of chief software architect in 2006, to bring his skills in web-based collaboration to the center of Microsoft's thinking.


Ozzie was central in the creation of Microsoft's Azure project -- its main push into 'cloud', or internet-based computing -- but he left four years later with Microsoft still trailing and Google in web-savvy.

"My job there was primarily a change management job. I was asked by Bill (Gates) and Steve (Ballmer, the CEO) to come in, look at the company, decide what was broken and try your best to fix it," said Ozzie.

"I feel very good about a number of things that did change. The company's a lot different now, it's come a long way and I'm happy about some things and I'm impatient about other things."

Ozzie said the fate of Windows 8 would determine Microsoft's future. The latest version of the company's operating system will work on tablets powered by low-power ARM Holdings chips, which Microsoft hopes will allow it to rival Apple's iPad, and put the company back at the cutting edge of consumer technology.

"If Windows 8 shifts in a form that people really want to buy the product, the company will have a great future," said Ozzie. "In any industry, if people look at their own needs, and look at the products and say, 'I understand why I had it then, and I want something different', they will not have as good a future. It's too soon to tell."

Windows 8 may help Microsoft bridge the gap to the post-PC world, but the "doom and gloom" scenario for the company is people switching to portable, non-Windows devices, said Ozzie.

"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."

(Reporting By Bill Rigby; Editing by Ed Davies)

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Comments (5)
jscott418 wrote:
I think the PC is not dead, but we have other tools now. I know I do not want to draft a letter on a smartphone, I know I do not want to edit video on a iPad. I know that my laptop now is used far more then my desktop PC. Some things come full circle. I just traded off my original iPad and bought a new laptop. Why, because the iPad never was what I had hoped for. I cannot print to the printer I have with it, I cannot watch Flash video which is not dead. I did not have much storage or a sd card reader( i would have to buy a adaptor from Apple). So I sold it. I think people tend to buy some things on a whim and find out later it just does not fit. I found that out with the iPad. For me it never fit into my life.

Mar 07, 2012 11:00pm EST  --  Report as abuse
katezz wrote:
i love the pc, i hate the other things.

Mar 08, 2012 12:19am EST  --  Report as abuse
scythe wrote:
a rather gratuitous observation from ray ozzie

this isn’t an arena of “either … or”, instead “both …. and”

the hardware market is very diversified – now there is an opportunity for mobile gadgets to extend the reach of users outside their office and workstations

what is dead are monolithic software enterprises
mobility achieved by os x, posix variants, usb linux, virtual os have made the microsoft pc/office software empire obsolete

the microsoft pc/office era is dead

watch the dead withered hand of microsoft as it clasps nokia in a downward spiral

Mar 08, 2012 2:09am EST  --  Report as abuse
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