November 11, 2010

How I met Ray Ozzie, part 3

This is the last instalment of how I met Ray Ozzie.  You can find the previous post here

The job

I didn’t tell you yet how he found us or what he thought we could help him with. For those who have been around Macadamian for a while, you will know. Back in the days we were heavily involved in a project called wine. On behalf of Corel we were mandated to get the corel office suite to work on linux, and we were doing this through the development of wine. Wine is a library that you can compile your windows code against to run windows code on linux. Macadamian for the longest time was the biggest and most prolific contributor on wine. You can imagine when we started working on wine, on its best days wine could run notepad, and we needed to run all of the corel suite, the challenge was huge and involved so many long nights.

Linux was all the rage at the time, if one didn’t have a linux strategy your were as good as dead. The energy around Linux was surreal. It was the days when Linux was going to sweep all desktops and magically replace Windows.  Groove needed to be able to show they would have a multi platform strategy and that groove was not a windows thing only.

Ray found us out because he needed to get groove to run on Linux, and found out about wine, and then saw that all the traffic on the project was Macadamian’s. We were the domain experts, the choice was clear to him we were the A-team for the job.

Our job was getting Groove to work on Linux. After looking at the application for a few hours it was clear we could swing this one out of the park.  Groove was all new code, and it was written in a very respectful way of Windows, even though it was doing very complex things. The APIs were not abused, and they were used to do the right things. Some other applications we were working with were so old they were making use of all the fringe cases an API would have, they would even rely on Windows bugs to work. You read that right.  Some applications work based on a buggy behaviour of an API, and as such when one builds wine, you have to replicate the bugs of the API as well as its functionality.

The launch

The launch of Groove Networks, was in NewYork, Manhattan. I think they had flown in a large part of Groove for the launch. They worked their but off for so long, it was their moment. This is at this time it clicked even more for me the opportunity we had had to work with Groove.

During the launch it was all about companies who had partnered with Groove to create collaboration solutions for their respective verticals. And then there was a meeting with Visicalc’s inventor  Dan Bricklin, the ancestor of spreadsheet applications as we know it. Because we worked with Groove, I ran into Mitch Kapor the founder of Lotus.

At some point there was a video played to discuss what groove was and how Ray Ozzie was about to change the world again with his peer to peer collaboration for companies. I can’t remember all the names who were on that video, the two that stuck with me were. Esther Dyson, she was the editor of Release 1.0 at the time, the best written and insightful technology and trend industry news letter there was out there. The biggest “celebrity” by far person to be on that video was no other than Bill Gates, who was singing praises for Mr. Ozzie himself. I remember thinking this guys knows people to make this happen. He knows them to a level where they are willing to do this video for his launch, that is pretty cool. When was the last time I saw Bill Gates at a product launch I participated in? At Corel we were having some pretty cool parties, but Bill Gates was no where in sight!

The takeaways

This is it for this story. I’m sure Ray Ozzie has a few things cooking now that he will soon be free of his obligations at Microsoft. Given another opportunity to work with a venture of his, I’d jump on it. He is got the calmness and raw intelligence that naturally get you to want to fall on your sword for the project, for the guy. It speaks about his leadership abilities, and style. He is a technology guy first, and a business guy second, and in start-up mode I think this works well.

Whatever happened to Groove. I don’t know for sure, the rumour was that Microsoft bought Groove so that Gates could have a succession plan, so that they could have someone in Gate’s role that the man himself had high respect for. The product itself is no longer, all its technology and leading edge concepts has found its way in various Microsoft offering from Office to Live Sync. It’s used by more people now than it ever was. It’s like the saying goes, “if you can’t beat them, join them”

From Macadamian’s standpoint:

The first thing, how high you set the bar is as high you’re going to get. I worked at Corel for several years, and we had out act together software engineering wise, we were rigorous. When we got to work with Groove I saw so much more rigour, and drive to make the impossible happen I hadn’t seen before. In and out of the engineering it was about taking over the world in a very believable way. People were driven to make things happen to a level of excellence that was higher than what I had known, it was possible, within reach. Ray Ozzie was making this possible, being Ray Ozzie, they were the “it” team.

The second thing that I take away, contributing content can pay off big! The fact we were contributing to Wine forums, was the only reason he found us out.  It helps bring the awareness to level unheard of for people who are interested in exactly what the company is working on. Mind you it’s not all CEO of companies who we deal with that are looking at mailing lists to figure who they should talk to for a project they have.

No comments: