So Mr. Ozzie is leaving Microsoft.
SteveB gives the news, and says that he “plans to step down from his position as chief software architect. He will focus on Microsoft’s investments in the field of entertainment during a transition period, and leave the company in the coming months.”
Ozzie, who is 54 years old, "has no plans at this time".
OK, so what’s up?
SteveB writes (see here for the full text):
"As a company, we’ve accomplished much in the past five years as we look at the cloud and services. Windows Live now serves as a natural web-based services complement to both Windows and Office. SharePoint and Exchange have now decidedly embraced the cloud. 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."
What he writes is that Ozzie stood for the cloud transformation, that he was able to have Windows and Office embrace it, and that he helped change to take place.
Sounds a lot, since MS is quite a juggernaut, but it could have been more – he was meant to replace BillG after all. And there is very little heart in what Steve writes.
WSJ adds that Ozzie’s departure is the latest sign of turnover in MS top ranks.
And adds, from a not named source, that Ozzie decided to quit Microsoft because "he has accomplished what he wanted to accomplish" at the company.
But did he really accomplish that? opinions differ:
Paul Saffo (Discern Analystics): "He did more to give the company architectural discipline than anyone, Ray Ozzie more than anyone else represented someone who was dragging Microsoft’s technology into the future."
Stan Gibson (principal at IBM): ”With Microsoft still relying heavily on the success of Windows and Office productivity applications, it’s hard to draw that conclusion. [that he accomplished what he wanted to accomplish]”
Michael Gartenberg (Gartner): “Ozzie’s potential impact was hobbled from the start by Microsoft’s culture and internal divisions”. “Once again, there’s an empty seat at Ballmer’s table.”
Chris Nemey: "At Microsoft, (Ozzie) found himself unable to cut through turf wars and political in-fighting to make much of a mark." That would leave one to conclude that Ozzie’s absence from Redmond’s corridors won’t make any real difference at all.
The Guardian: “The announcement has surprised many” … ”His departure seems to indicate that an ongoing power struggle within Microsoft about its future – and whether it should shift over to a model based on cloud-based services, or retain its longstanding reliance on its twin monopolies of the Windows desktop and Office suite – has been won by the pragmatists who want the company to stay with its existing business model.”
Well, what is sure is that the cloud strategy he developed while at Microsoft is definitely disruptive, both for the customers and for some of the product divisions themselves. The company that Microsoft was will not be in some 24/36 months, the changes and the tensions within the employee base are all about this.
But when the Azure team got reorganized and joined the Server & Tools, while Live was to be a Windows environment it was a clear indication that decisions had been made, and there were different ideas on how to move forward – and Ozzie was only giving strategy but not driving it further.
He was a visionary but a shy one, never a great public speaker, he was not deeply involved with customers or partners, he did not like the Corporate power plays – he did not stand up to Craig Mundie and recently to Steven Sinofsky.
So, what’s next for Microsoft?
Al Hilwa (IDC): "From reading the latest org chart, Microsoft has organized into multiple autonomous groups and probably has decided that its businesses are too diverse to have an overarching chief software architect".
Dina Bass (Bloomberg BusinessWeek): “Ozzie’s departure fuels concerns about Microsoft bench”.
On the bench there is Craig Mundie, leading the Reaserch teams; Steven Sinofsky, influential more than ever, given his ability to salvage the Windows franchise; and BobMu, who already overseas the cloud and platform investments. Will one emerge?
Then, what for Ozzie?
Paul Saffo, who has known Ozzie for years, said he expects a start-up looming: "In the last couple of years, it was increasingly obvious Ray’s talents were being wasted," he said. "I’m sure he has a whole bunch of new ideas inside of him."
“What else is he going to do?” said Dan Warmenhoven, chairman of NetApp Inc. “He’s smart as hell, but he’s not really a businessman. He’s a technologist. He’s probably looking for the next big thing, and didn’t see it there.”
Good luck with that.