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InfoQ Homepage News Ray Ozzie Steps Down as Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect

Ray Ozzie Steps Down as Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect

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Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect, has stepped down and will retire from Microsoft after five years as strategist pushing the idea of online services and cloud computing.

After mentioning Ozzie’s contribution on introducing the cloud, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, announced the company about Ozzie’s intention to step down as CSA in an internal memo made public:

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.

Ballmer’s memo is not very clear. He mentions Ozzie’s retirement from Microsoft, but he does not specify when that happens:

Following the natural transition time with his teams but before he retires from Microsoft, Ray will be focusing his efforts in the broader area of entertainment where Microsoft has many ongoing investments. We have tremendous opportunities in the entertainment space overall, and I’m excited about what we can accomplish. Beyond that, Ray has no plans at this time. While he’ll continue to report to me during the transition, the CSA role was unique and I won’t refill the role after Ray’s departure.

From Ballmer’s next sentence it seems that Ozzie’s days at Microsoft are numbered:

While Ray will be onboard for a while, I’d like to thank him today for his contributions to Microsoft, both as a leader and as a long-time Microsoft ISV

Ballmer does mention that he won’t try to refill Ozzie’s role as CSA.

Ozzie came to Microsoft in 2005 when his company, Groove Networks, was acquired by the Redmond Giant. He was initially a Chief Technology Officer and became the Chief Software Architect, taking that role from Bill Gates who was planning on retiring, after he wrote a long memo called The Internet Services Disruption. Basically he draw the attention that Microsoft will lose the game if they do not enter the era of services and cloud computing. He championed Live Mesh and FUSE Labs/ (Future Social Experiences) in an attempt to innovate the online web experience. He also formed the Windows Azure team, having an important role in giving life to Microsoft’s cloud.

Early reactions to Ozzie’s departure from Microsoft mention his lack of ability to articulate Microsoft’s vision and the fact that the CSA role is too vague and abstract to actually represent something. Tim Anderson, a free lance journalist, said:

It is possible that I have not seen the best of Ozzie. His early Internet Services Disruption memo was impressive, but the public appearances I have seen at events like PDC have been less inspiring. …

Ozzie may have done great work out of public view; but my impression is that Microsoft lacks the ability to articulate its strategy effectively, with neither Ozzie nor Ballmer succeeding in this. Admittedly it is a difficult task for such a diffuse company; but it is a critical one.

Scott Berkun, author and journalist, remarked:

In the past I’ve criticized on idea of job titles like VP of Innovation or Chief Innovation officer. Chief Software Architect, Ozzie’s title,  had similar problems. It means little to those with real power inside a company. Makers of things, like developers, give the most respect to people who ship things. What does a VP of Innovation ship? What does a Chief Software Architect ship? Nothing. Slide decks and vision plans don’t compile. You can prototype and speculate all you want, but that’s at best indirect influence on what the rest of a company is doing. You can’t be a leader from the sideline. Give advice? Sure. Make demos? Absolutely. But if a real risk needs to be taken you are not the person with the power to take it.

In the meantime, Ozzie started to blog again after a four-year break, but his blog is not hosted by Microsoft. It is at

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