Ray Ozzie steers Microsoft into the cloud

In an interview at PDC, Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie talks Windows Azure, cloud computing, and the company's future plans

Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie has officially filled the shoes previously worn by founder and Chairman Bill Gates, stepping in as leader of the company's vast developer network, which is its lifeblood and crucial to the enormous success of Windows. Ozzie delivered Monday's keynote speech at the company's Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles, introducing Windows Azure, a cloud-computing development and hosting environment that integrates Ozzie's vision for the future of the Web, which he began building at his company Groove Networks before he joined Microsoft.

Ozzie also took some time Monday for an interview with IDG News Service, discussing Azure, cloud computing and the future of the Windows OS. An edited transcript of the interview follows.

Windows Azure will help corporate developers bring application development to the Web, but at the same time it looks like it's going to help Microsoft bring its own applications to the Web. Can you talk about the two purposes that it serves?

We looked at our own internal properties, we looked at the trends. We always try to monitor what are the technology trends that are going on and where might things happen. Our systems people were getting more and more interested in how the high-scale Internet services really work. And so we did this big assessment and we really came to the conclusion that there's a role for this new kind of computer, this computer in the sky, computer in the cloud.

When was this?

The first document that I know of that I wrote about was in December '05, and I know we were talking about it throughout '06. It wasn't so much what Amazon was doing, because essentially Amazon's model -- even though I have a lot of respect for what they've done -- they've basically taken more or less a hosting model of taking existing operating systems and putting them up into the cloud.

The conclusion we came to was there was this new role for this new third tier of computer in the cloud. You've got your personal computing tier, you've got Windows servers for the enterprise tier serving the enterprise, and now this computer in the cloud serving this whole worldwide Web.

Once we took that on we basically had to start thinking how does it change for developers, how would it benefit enterprises over the long term and so forth. So that project has been going for several years now, and part of the way through that project, that was when we began evaluating how can we take our business applications online on that platform, how will it help our consumer apps -- Hotmail and things like that.

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