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Microsoft's software vision chief embraces future horror

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'Three screens and a PC

The vision that Ozzie said he's setting is for "three screens and a PC" - applications that are able to run or be displayed on a PC, mobile, and TV but link back to the cloud. He believes application code should be cached and sandboxed and data synchronized online through the cloud.

Isn't this a direct threat to Microsoft's core, PC-based business?

Rightly, Ozzie called out Silicon Valley and the tech industry for its fanaticism for "new" at the expense of "existing". And - on this basis - he believes Microsoft has a future.

"Look," a slightly testy father of Lotus Notes told Wired senior writer Steven Levy on stage at the Churchill Club. "As long as I've been in this industry everybody who's got some new technology touts it as being the thing that's going to kill the previous thing. And when it all settles out, the reality is it's the previous thing and the new thing."

Specifically on the future obsolescence of the operating system, Ozzie said we will always need operating systems to abstract the hardware on any device.

"The programming model on top of that operating system is what's changing and the experience on top of that operating system is what's changing. All we have to do is make sure the way we approach the programming model is contemporary and relevant to developers at that moment in time and - yes - that's got to factor in the web.

"There are ways to connect web developers to what's going on in the operating system in ways that haven't been done today without being locked into the browser.

"The question is, if you are a web developer, what might you want to do with [Microsoft] Office or the shell? There are ways of lighting up the web experience and the operating system experience that are much more compelling today. I'm not concerned there's a future" for the operating system.

With netbooks, Ozzie is betting on an x86 Intel and AMD future running the forthcoming Windows 7 rather than ARM as most software runs on the former without the added complexity of emulation. He also doesn't seem to see a single, mass-market ARM-based device emerging to challenge Intel and AMD x86 and the PC model, just the continuation of smaller ARM-based devices.

He also seemed a little puzzled at claims Microsoft's not doing much for netbooks, pointing to the forthcoming release of Windows 7 as a replacement for Windows XP.

"If it [ARM] happens it will be on a different type of device. And there hasn't been a broadly accepted clamshell or device that's not a PC. I'm not writing it off but I'm investing in the future of lots and lot and lots of really nice and expensive and really nice inexpensive laptops," Ozzie said. ®

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