At the same time Ozzie rolls out his plans and tries to resolve the dearth of concrete details, Microsoft as an organization must figure out how it will adapt to the services model.
"You can imagine the huge challenges in moving from a product-focused business model and sales culture, and you can imagine the huge philosophical, cultural and business model challenges they need to look at," says Ken Thoreson, president of Acumen Management, which provides sales management consulting. Thoreson says Microsoft's track record with executing the delivery and integration of new products into their existing model is spotty. "The question is how fast will they come out of the chute. Normally, they struggle with that," he says.
Microsoft will have to deliver a top-notch support model for services customers and will eventually have to redefine its relationship with partners in terms of services.
Help crafting solutions to all these issues will come from the top.
"Priority No. 1 in terms of our long-term outlook is this transformation," CEO Steve Ballmer told partners last year in a message he is likely to repeat next month when Microsoft's partners gather in Houston for their annual conference. "It is an ambitious project for us, but it is very important."
It is important in many ways because Microsoft has so much at stake, so much ground to make up and so much to prove for the first time without Gates at the helm.
"We are breaking from the proprietary lock-and-key model that has become commonplace under Gates' tenure," says Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation. "This next generation of computing is where Microsoft is struggling but where open standards are thriving: SaaS, cloud computing, Web 2.0 - they all run on open source. Ballmer and team have recognized the need for a new model that embraces open systems and where open source co-exists with proprietary software, but only time will tell if these actions really stick."
Despite the monster it has been over the past two decades, the future may hold a more humble place for Microsoft if Ozzie, Ballmer and crew sans Gates can't execute on the services plan.