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Ray Ozzie to Leave Microsoft: Has The Future Left the Building?

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Ray Ozzie, the chief software architect with Microsoft (s msft) is leaving the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant after a transition period. Ozzie is widely viewed as someone who tried to change Microsoft’s internal attitudes toward cloud computing and other Internet technologies, and is is credited for Microsoft’s move into the cloud with its Azure efforts. In a memo to Microsoft employees, CEO Steve Ballmer wrote:

And by conceiving, incubating and shepherding Windows Azure, Ray helped ensure we have a tremendously rich platform foundation that will enable app-level innovation across the company and by customers for years to come. With our progress in services and the cloud now full speed ahead in all aspects of our business, Ray and I are announcing today Ray’s intention to step down from his role as chief software architect. He will remain with the company as he transitions the teams and ongoing strategic projects within his organization — bringing the great innovations and great innovators he’s assembled into the groups driving our business.

Having spoken with him on a handful of occasions, I always found Ozzie very un-Microsoft like in his approach to software and technologies, and that’s perhaps what made him a change agent. Five years ago, he and Bill Gates wrote two separate memos to Microsoft employees about change and Microsoft’s adaptation to that change. Upon reading those memos, I wrote:

The regressive thinking that puts PC at the center of technology is in full display. No mention of the fact that most of the “computers” in the world are mobile phones, and rest of the planet doesn’t look at the world through a LCD screen. More on this here and here. Or the fact that a broadband enabled world needs to be looked at differently, and needs a different class of applications. How come the big giant up north doesn’t see that it holds the future in its hands in the shape of Xbox 360, the most anti-Microsoft product and the perfect platform for a high-speed world. Hey, that’s just me… blinded by broadband.

Fast forward to today; the technology landscape has changed drastically. Microsoft has tried to adapt, but hasn’t really changed. Perhaps that’s why Ozzie thought it was time for him to make his exit.

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17 Responses to “Ray Ozzie to Leave Microsoft: Has The Future Left the Building?”

  1. Eric Hawthorne

    Steve Ballmer says he is not going to re-fill the position of Chief Software Architect (at MicroSOFT, the SOFTWARE company) because he has good technical leaders in each business area.

    That in itself speaks volumes about Ballmer’s lack of understanding of the need for coherent, uniform, complexity-reducing architecture and design in large-scale software offerings. About a lack of understanding of the importance of simple unifying visions.

    I think they’re toast, but will take a long time to die because they’re so big.

  2. As an employee closing in on my first anniversary with the company, the thing I’ve learned the most is that generalizing about Microsoft is pointless, and even silly. The company has its hands in so many different kinds of businesses and products that you can’t draw conclusions about what Microsoft as a whole is. It’s many different things.

    For example, my group works extensively with open source products, some of us have iPhones and our dev process is agile, not waterfall. Are there groups in the company that are the exact opposite? Of course there are. What I don’t understand is why pundits and blogger-journalists never bother to actually talk to people around the company and figure this out.

    If you really think Microsoft hasn’t changed, you’re not looking hard enough.

  3. This is excellent news for Ray.

    Ray has a great track record of producing innovative solutions to common problems and I look forward to seeing where his mind takes him next.

    I was startled when he took his current position as I have never seen him as a natural corporate person.

  4. “the technology landscape has changed drastically. Microsoft has tried to adapt, but hasn’t really changed”

    Operating systems, productivity tools, development tools, server products, RDBMS, enterprise software, communication and collaboration solutions, IT services, media & entertainment, mobile OS, cloud computing. Microsoft has diversified into many service lines, and is doing reasonably well in most of them. As the technology landscape has evolved, so has MS.

    Organizationally, it might not be the most well managed technology firms out there. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t kept pace with evolving technologies or is a one trick pony.

    Om, why do you think MS hasn’t really changed with the changing technology landscape?

  5. Ray Ozzie will not be replaced. Gee, I wonder why. He didn’t do anything…Nothing! Ray failed to lead at Microsoft. It got so bad that senior execs refused to be in the same room with him. Seriously. He is an egomaniac and has no idea how to work with people who actually get things done.

  6. What might this mean for Microsoft’s C# strategy and the future of Silverlight?

    As an old dog in this sport, I’ve found that I can’t be an engaged technologist AND a knuckle-dragging corporate carnivore at the same time. It’s one or the other.

    There had to be an evangelist “arrow” in Ozzie’s quiver for him to make it as far as he did. That individual, for whatever reason, left or fell out of favor within the company, setting the wheels in motion for Ozzie’s departure.
    It’s also possible that Ozzie offended his padrone, too.

    If any of this thinking is the case, I wouldn’t expect a big change in Microsoft’s strategic direction. But, clearly, something has to be done concerning the bloated middle management ranks within the organization. Bad or wasteful decisions were made and the individuals who championed those initiatives (or, most likely, their leave-behinds) need to be held accountable.

    The outsourcing nonsense would be high on my list of things to put severe limits on as a matter of policy and to utterly devastate those whose “brilliant” idea it was in the first place. Imagine, if you will, the consulting craze of the CEO’s from the 1970’s and early 1980’s on steroids. That has been all that outsourcing achieved in realistic terms.

    With all due respect to our brilliant technological colleagues in India, a programmer in India is just as hard to get along with as a programmer in the United States…and is every bit as narcissistic and devious.

  7. Ray Ozzie has an enormous ego under that shy exterior. He couldn’t get along with senior execs at Microsoft, and failed to get anything done. He will not be missed by people inside Microsoft. That is for sure.


  8. organizeNOW

    We have protested Microsoft every week for the last four years. Ray leaving highlights the downfall of Microsoft.

    We are a Union of Former and Current Microsoft employees. We demand Microsoft pay minimum wages to employees and staff. Demand Microsoft stop reducing benefits and pay NOW!

    Demand Microsoft stop Prison labor in Washington and Texas NOW!

    Demand the India Bus stop NOW! Microsoft has been illegally shipping in workers into Redmond via India bus. These workers stay less than two months and live in inhumane conditions while working in Redmond. As many as 15 people to a single studio apartment and the workers are paid in India Rupees.

    Average Microsoft employee with ivy league degree earns less than $15 per hour without benefits.

    Microsoft latest products like WP7 were built by sweatshop labor out sourced to China and India at a fraction of a dollar. WP7 was made by sweatshop labor and packed by Prison inmates in Texas and then shipped by Prison inmates in Washington state.

    Demand an investigation NOW!

    • “The future has walked out of the building” might make a catchy headline, but does it really represent the reality?

      (On a side note: GigaOm could do with some de-sensationalizing of their headlines)

      Ray Ozzie was taken in as a blue eyed boy and was given all authority but little responsibility. Of course he sang the cloud song, but microsoft, notwithstanding the CEOH antics, has been running through troubled times and are now emerging victors in a couple of areas – but Ray Ozzie nary had anything to do with these successes.

      Look back at the last couple of years – Bing, the Yahoo down-and-up story, Win7 and now WP7 – where the hell has Ray been?

      Yes, I need to give credit to him – for having let these things happen. But that’s a mere spoonful of credit while buckets were expected.

      Evidently, the role of chief software architect is difficult for someone who has just been grafted from another farm. But Ray should have given himself a year or two (max) to either make a difference, or move on. His continued stay has not exactly earned him credibility.

    • Oops, looks like a goof-up. No, I didn’t intend to reply to organizeNOW. My reply above contains comments on the original article and have nothing to do with the views expressed by organizeNOW.

  9. “Having spoken with him on a handful of occasions, I always found Ozzie very un-Microsoft like in his approach to software and technologies, and that is perhaps what made him a change agent.”

    “Fast forward to today, the technology landscape has changed drastically. Microsoft has tried to adapt, hasn’t really changed.”