I’d been looking forward to the keynote for a while since I found out that Ray Ozzie was going to be speaking. Unfortunately his piece of things was quite small – I imagine I wasn’t the only person disappointed by this. The meaning of the keynote was the general direction and strategy of Microsoft and how we “IT people” fit into that.

It made me think a lot of Macintosh ads and how differentiated the corporate strategies of Microsoft and Apple differ. Microsoft has taken the rather difficult (and not necessarily sexy (in a geek sense)) undertaking of “people-centric” software for business. The idea is to make people more productive in an organizational setting with software.

This reminds me of Paul Graham’s evocation of young people to pick hard problems to work on. The word “hard” is subject to semantic lashing but in this case, the idea of making people work better together is a very difficult problem, especially because it’s difficult to do without reinventing the wheel and causing new problems with current fixes.

Although it’s not explicitly stated, it seems that Microsoft’s approach here is not to “innovate” necessarily, but to commoditize new technologies that are proving themselves and package them for masses at all levels: masses in systems administration, masses in development, and, of course, the “mass” of society.

One other thing about Ozzie’s keynote: there is now a conversation about “smart client” applications which represent something that I began to suspect when I first installed Google Earth: the possibility of leveraging a thick client that was intensely web aware. Of course this notion has been around for a long time – yes, I do play MMOs on occasion – but now a technology like that could possibly be commoditized by Microsoft moving developers away from the traditional web based application to a more controlled, powerful “experience” the developer can produce. Web applications still have their place but essentially the XAML WPF/e notion. Kind of cool in the sense that fewer “fix the back button” types of issues in an internal web based application are possible but also a bit sinister since this is a big move away from “standards” to the proprietary, Windows choke-hold environment.

Lots of other thoughts, and some larger context as TechEd gets underway.