Ray Ozzie's startup has mobility, communications at core

Ray Ozzie, who left Microsoft in 2010, talked broadly about his new startup, Cocomo, at a summit in Seattle

Ray Ozzie, the former chief software architect at Microsoft, has given a few more hints about what his new startup will do.

Ozzie left Microsoft in 2010 and revealed earlier this year that he was starting a new company called Cocomo. He's still being vague about what it will do, but he made it clear that mobility and communications are at the heart of the company.

"My love, the thing I've done most in my career, is communications, what people would today call social productivity," he said Wednesday at a summit organized by GeekWire, a Seattle blog. Ozzie is perhaps best known for his work developing the Lotus Notes collaboration software.

"I like envisioning tools for new environments that let people do things in ways that are more fun, more productive," Ozzie said. "Right now I'm concentrating on mobile because I think that market is incredibly explosive."

His definition of mobile includes the Web, cloud systems and client devices that could include phones and tablets, he said. "I think it's great to explore new scenarios of how to connect with one another with this new basis we've got," he said.

Despite his recent ties to Microsoft, he's investigating various cloud options. "I believe in Azure an awful lot," he said, referring to Microsoft's public cloud service. But he's also using Amazon Web Services and "playing with" clouds based on the OpenStack software.

He declined to give specifics about the company, which he is operating from Boston and Seattle.

It seems likely he'll enable his offering across different platforms, judging from his personal preferences. While he carried a Samsung Galaxy Note on Wednesday, an iPhone has been his primary phone over the past nine months or so, he said. Before that he had an Android phone, and at Microsoft he used Windows Phones. "I try lots of different things," he said.

Ozzie reflected on his time at Microsoft and what his legacy might be: "My job there was primarily a change management job," he said. Bill Gates, Microsoft's founder who handed his duties as chief software architect to Ozzie when he left the company, and Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, hired him to "look at the company and decide what was broken and try [his] best to fix it," he said.

When he joined Microsoft he thought it had a "tremendous history," he said, with great technology assets and people. But it was a company struggling to adjust to changes in the PC and server markets, he said. "I tried my best to communicate with various groups what their purpose in life was," he said. For instance, he tried to convince the Office group that it should focus on selling productivity, as opposed to selling PC-based productivity products, and the Xbox group that it should sell entertainment, not boxes or discs.

"No one person is responsible, but I feel very good about the number of things that did change. The company is a lot different now. It's come a long way. I'm happy about some things and impatient about other things," he said.

Ozzie was reluctant to get into a debate about competition between PCs and tablets. "People argue about, 'are we in a post-PC world.' Why are they arguing? Of course we're in a post-PC world. That doesn't mean the PC dies. It just means the scenarios we use them in, we stop referring to them as PCs. But it's still general computation," he said.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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Nancy Gohring

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