Microsoft Without Ray Ozzie: News Analysis

By CIOinsight  |  Posted 10-19-2010

Ray Ozzie has announced his plans to leave Microsoft and it is not the end of the world as we know it. In fact, in the scheme of things in the day-to-day activities of the company, Ozzie's departure means very little.

Why? Because, despite all that he has done behind the scenes to bring muster to Microsoft's overall cloud strategy and to build teams that could promote the company's services push, that work was largely done. And observers say Ozzie was pretty much nonexistent in the role of what one might consider to be a Chief Software Architect.

Some folks are saying this move might be a death knell for Microsoft, or at least for CEO Steve Ballmer. That could not be farther from the truth. Ballmer is going nowhere. He credits Ozzie for doing his part, citing Ozzie's seminal Internet Services Disruption memo as having a key impact in changing direction at Microsoft. However, folks who believed that Ozzie was the heir apparent to Bill Gates and that he would take the reins of the company someday were misinformed, or at most wishful. When Gates and Ballmer announced Ozzie's role in the company five years ago, they never indicated he would become CEO. And Ozzie never showed an interest in it. Instead, Ozzie quickly indicated that was not his goal. He is most comfortable putting together small, strategic teams that can pull off amazing feats of engineering, like the so-called "Red Dog" team that delivered Windows Azure.

Ozzie brought his understanding of services and delivering software as a service. Ozzie, from way back, knew the value of enabling developers and users to collaborate to create and effectively use applications. He was collaboration when collaboration wasn't cool. Enter Notes, his baby, and later Groove -- ideas viewed as before their time. This formed the foundation of Ozzie's sync ideas and thus the Live Mesh and cloud efforts.

Ozzie's vision for Microsoft, that it embrace services and make a big bet on the cloud, was good, as far as it went. But when the 'We're All In' speech took place in March at the University of Washington, it was Steve Ballmer, not Ray Ozzie, who delivered the address. Ozzie sat in the front row, looking on as someone else articulated his own vision. Microsoft needs a technical visionary who aspires to more than working behind the scenes. Ozzie's stepping down may enable such a visionary to step up.

What Microsoft needs is some overarching ubergeek who can look at and piece together the various parts to play well under one roof. And there are folks in-house that come to mind who can do that. A couple of names that quickly come to mind are S. "Soma" Somasegar and Amitabh Srivastava. Somasegar is senior vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft, and Srivastava is senior vice president of Microsoft's Server and Cloud Division with responsibilities for Windows Azure and Windows Server and a core member of the Red Dog team that delivered Windows Azure.

For more, read the eWeek article What Did Ray Ozzie Do (and Not Do)? That's the Question.