CAIRO, Egypt “Students are in great position to solve some problems because they are untainted by the knowledge of what can't be done,” according to Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief software architect.
“They don't know how we have tried to solve problems in the past; and have new ideas and can take advantage of the latest technologies available. They think about things in a markedly different way and that gives them the opportunity to do things that people my age would not attempt.”
Ozzie who led the team that developed Lotus Notes assumed the chief software architect's role in June 2006, when chairman Bill Gates said he would step down Microsoft in July 2008. Ozzie is responsible for oversight of the company's technical strategy and product architecture. He is also directing development of the company's next-generation software services platform.
Ozzie was speaking at the opening of the Imagine Cup, the seeds of which were sown several years before its official take up by Microsoft in 2002, when some students in the Far East wanted to hold a local competition using the company's technology.
It spread gradually, gained company support and continued to grow. When, in 2004, student input suggested that the theme be changed from just exploiting the capabilities of the technology to valuing projects that have an impact on social change, the competition blossomed into a global competition.
The theme change had a dramatic effect on the number of entries, which doubled or tripled year-on-year, to the extent that 2009 saw around 300 000 entries.
“Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and even more contemporary companies such as Facebook were started by people who had belief that what they could do would change the world,” said Ozzie. “Students tend to have an unbounded amount of energy and have an idealistic view of what they can do to change the world. This combined with a fascination with technology lets them imagine what they can build.”
“Those of us who have been in this industry for quite a while still generally believe we are at the dawn of what might be able to be done with computing and information technology. We have done many amazing things but we have only just began to scratch the surface in areas such as education, healthcare and how technology can be used to help in the environmental issues that face us.”
“When I reflect on the 30 years I have been in this industry and the 40 years I have been programming and how see how much the world has changed and been impacted by technology I can only imagine what the students in the Imagine Cup can achieve in the course of their careers. It gives me a tremendous sense of optimism.”