back to article Microsoft loses chief software architect Ray Ozzie

Bill Gates' replacement at Microsoft, Ray Ozzie, is leaving the company after just five years. Ozzie is stepping down as chief software architect - the jobs Gates last occupied - and will only remain with Microsoft to transition his teams and people to other groups. Ozzie joined Microsoft in 2005 and became chief software …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo

    Yeah, but...

    when the fuck is Balmer going to go?

    1. Charles Manning

      His job is done when MS is dead

      It's all going to plan.

      1. Daniel 1

        Re: His job is done when MS is dead

        You mean "Balmer's not done 'til Redmond won't run"?

        I'm sure Ray Ozzie, of all people, is familiar with that sort of approach.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      He'll be

      Chief Chicken of the biggest headless chicken organisation in the world.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Hang on a sec...

    "as architect of the less-than-exciting Notes"

    I agree, in 2010 it is far from exciting, but when it was launched in the 1980s (I guess when most of El Reg's readers where in school), it was ground breaking. Many of the larger organisations in the world still use Lotus Notes, however, I agree it's not evolved into anything exciting... the client is dire, LotusScript is still there etc.. But credit where it's due, in 1989 it was really innovative.

    1. multipharious


      Iris, Lotus, IBM...stagnation. You were on the right path.

      Ozzie understands(stood) document synchronization...and if anyone thinks this is boring or obvious then they should attempt to design it themselves with a database or document system that gets used heavily.

      Remember the circa 1998 Notes R5 client and how it just got it. Notes users did too. I always found this cool to notice the diff in the email client end users. Notes users also understood how to deal with online, offline, slow connections, and large messages years and years before the first real implementations in Outlook. I could point out the design aspects back and forth over the last ten plus years, but perhaps I should just finish with:

      Notes replication was darn cool!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      lotus exiting

      i am old now and i can tell you people:

      lotus was never an exiting technology,

      just the kind of stuff managers likes...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah, Lotus Notes

    I did a fair bit of C 'development' for that about 10 years ago. IIRC some of the example-code which 'explained' how things worked (in lieu of any decent documentation) didn't compile, which was pretty much par for the course with Notes.

    As for Ozzie's departure - I'm more surprised to learn that M$ have a software architect.

  4. Displacement Activity

    "a company struggling to regain the position at the vanguard of innovation"...

    Seriously? When were MS ever at the "vanguard of innovation"? Dates and products please.

    1. Big-nosed Pengie
      Gates Horns

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.


      How about "struggling to achieve any credibility at all as an innovator".

  5. Goat Jam

    Say what?

    "a company struggling to regain the position at the vanguard of innovation."

    Did they ever really hold that position? Really? Microsoft have been a huge success it's true, but I am struggling to think of anything that has been a true innovation.

    This is a list of their successful products that are just copies of other products;






    SQL server

    Exchange server

    Internet explorer

    Less successful copies include;





    And finally, their truly Innovative products;


    1. Adam Salisbury

      You almost had it there

      While I'll happily agree that virtually nothing MS have ever made was entirely (or even mostly) their own, citing the xbox as a rip-off is a bit disingenuous, I mean ALL consoles are rip-offs of one another and the xbox (or at least the 360) is a massive success unrooting the previous hitherto undefeatable imcumbent, Sony.

    2. Don Mitchell


      Wow, do you know anything at all about software? Do you think porting UNIX to the PC (Linux) was more innovative that Dave Cutler writing a new operating system (NT)? Do you even know what SQL Server does? And Azure (the Red Dog OS) is an amazing innovative operating system. Whether their cloud computing service will be successful I don't know, amazon is really the current leader there, but the azure technology is way more sophisticated than the buggy Linux infrastructure amazon is using.

      1. asdf

        M$ fanbois exist?

        Seriously their products are so lame my guess is you either work for M$ or are deathly afraid of your certs becoming obsolete and having to learn an non tinker toy operating system/ecosystem.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Microsoft ported Unix to the PC.

        Unfortunately it then took them a long, long time before they could claim any other operating system that *actually* even came close to being multi-tasking, let alone multi-user.

      3. Richard Plinston

        SQL Server

        > Do you even know what SQL Server does?

        MS SQL Server was purchased from Sybase. It hardly counts as MS's vanguard innovation product when it was running for years prior to it being MS's.

      4. GrantB


        If you think Linux was porting Unix to the PC, then you really missed the point of Linus releasing it as an open source operating system, (you may have also overlooked the fact that Microsoft had actually ported Unix already to the PC - Xenix, long before NT).

        Dave Cutler wrote a 'new' operating system that borrowed rather a lot from OS2 which was already at 1.0 by the time he started at MS. He is a smart guy no doubt, but I would say MS buying in a guy with an OS in mind (Dave had already developed the concept behind NT at DEC), shows the lack of in-house innovation; and even with Dave Cutler and other ex-DEC people, it really took 10 years until Win2K when NT finally came of age.

        I know what SQLServer does - the same as all the other RDBS do, and many of which have done so long before SQLServer.

        Azure.. an innovative OS? I believe you will find that Google might have done clouds right, long before MS. The point being that to be innovative you have to be first, not following Google and Amazon (an online shop, rather than an Operating System giant).

        MS do some things well; I like Word, and Excel to a lesser extent. I like Ribbons when they are well setup, and MS have innovated a few nice little things - the first time I saw misspelled words highlighted with red wavy underlines way back in Word 6?, I thought it was an obvious good idea, (then everybody & products like Thunderbird adopted the convention, while MS held back adding inline spell-checks in Outlook and IE for some reason).

        MS don't have to innovate; they will make billions for years to come churning our the same boring mainstream business stuff, just releasing products like Win7 (Vista with the main problems ironed out), so I think they don't need an Ozzie & develop entirely new products ; but they do need somebody to keep the focus on releasing products that are good enough - i.e. Win7 rather than Vista.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "porting UNIX to the PC (Linux).."

        Would have thought that someone purporting to be so well informed as you do would know that Linux a) isn't a port & b) has itself been ported to many other processors.

        And given the limited resources I'd say the creation of Linux was a miracle compared to NT - which is still a dog in many ways.

    3. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      You forgot ..


      AFAIK it's actually still part of Windows - throw up a command line and try..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Yup. Still there in Windows 7.

  6. Daniel 1

    So, last Thursday, "I'm back!". 5 days later, "I'm outa here!"

    I believe the ructions from this one will prove much more profound than the author appears to suggest. Ozzie really was supposed to be 'the one', 'the saviour', a fitting replacement for Gates, for the long haul. Last Thursday, after an absence of 12 months on his blog, we get this post saying he's back - and now he's just as gone (and more), in less than a week! What's that all about? And at such short notice? Why announce your return last Thursday, if you had sensibly-planned exist strategy for sometime, the week after?

    Balmer may now say that Ozzie doesn't need replacing, because he has "strong technical leaders in each business group", but this is exactly the reason why Ozzie was supposedly there: each business group has characteristically spent the last two decades, at war with each other an undermining one another's efforts because of these raging barons in their rival factions. Ozzie's role was to control those "strong technical leaders" (and read minimsft, for the rank-and-file opinion on how "strong", "technical" or "leader-like" many of those unit managers are often seen to be, within Redmond).

    I'm sorry, but even if this is a case of "ship the damn phone and get the Hell out", the announcement appears to have come so precipitately, that I cannot help but think that this signals that the famously "shouty" Redmond atmosphere, may have moved up a notch, towards outright civil war in the upper ranks.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Well said sir!

      Exactly what I was thinking.

      Barmy Ballmer was saying they are not going to replace Ozzie as the leaders of the divisions are strong, but MS is a mess due to trusting the leaders of the various divisions. The one with the loudest gob has also been the one to drive MS latest toy.

      MS is notorious for the in-fighting amongst the commanders, while the Generals just let them get on with it, hoping the one to the survive is obviously the best candidate. This sums MS thinking in general, "Hit 'em hard and hit 'em where it hurts!", "No pain! No gain!", etc.

      I don't think this will cause massive eruptions, but I think it will make a few people think a little more and wonder what is really going on over in Redmond Towers.

      1. Quxy

        The real question... what took him so long? He certainly looked frustrated enough up on stage with Ballmer at a couple of the recent developer's conferences...

      2. Daniel 1

        RE: Well said sir!

        It's indicative of a meritocracy where merit is given to the wrong things. You end up with whole generations of managers who neither know, nor understand, how they got where they are.

        They then initiate meaningless box-ticking exercises, as a way of measuring the performance of those below them, in order know who to give an 'Exceeded' or 'Achieved' rating to, come next review. The fact that, what these reports actually 'achieved', may often be summarized as 'anything except stuff to do with writing good software', is irrelevant - as long as these managers know which ones to give an 'underperformed' rating to ('decimation' in the Latin sense of the word, or, as Voltaire put it: 'Pour encourager les autres').

        So you end up with rooms full of smart people watching Powerpoint decks from members of the hairspray department all day long, because it's the best way to avoid the bottom-10%.

        And they ask why people like Ray Ozzie never manage to 'achieve' anything at Microsoft.

  7. Catroast

    He's being redeployed!

    "Ozzie will also be 'focusing his efforts in the broader area of entertainment.'"

    As Steve Balmer's private dancer?

  8. Robert Hill

    Note to Ballmer...

    I've met you worried he's gone. You are forceful, he is insightful....

  9. Peter 39

    wrong guy

    Need to fire Ballmer, not Ozzie.

    Another MS fail.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Can MS survive without a visionary at the top? Even if the visions were second hand. It's obvious that Ballmer is no visionary.

      MS needed Gate's desire to dominate the world. Ballmer only has the desire to dominate the people in front of him: I doubt that he has the imagination to cope with more than that.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    The Ballmer show?

    Ray Ozzie isn't high key - no doubt... but he is a great and innovative mind. This sort of departure makes me wonder how much he was butting heads with "the Microsoft Way" as personified by the monkey boy since it's obviously not Gates anymore.

    Maybe not, but seems to me that this could be confirmation of my personal conspiracy theory... that the recent Nokia article could just as easily have been written about Microsoft as HP (where I work and know it's the truth), the same as CA, the same as IBM, etc.

    Ray is an innovator - with him gone I'd put money down that while we'll continue to see little, incremental flashes of innovation... we'll never see anything truly groundbreaking from Microsoft anytime soon.

    /I for one welcome our new mediocre, bureaucratic overlords from Redmond.

  11. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    A C Change for PerlyGatesPython Fans and AIMad Men and Cracking Women?

    "He added that Mr Ozzie would focus on "the broader area of entertainment, where Microsoft has many ongoing investments"." ....

    Does that include areas of virtual live edutainment .... and the Present Placement of Future Reality or is that in the remit of CyberIntelAIgent Cloud Crowd Control and Special Force Command? ...... Advanced IntelAIgent Virtual Defense Systems and Methodologies ...... WAIs and Memes Ways and Means.

    Or has Microsoft missed that Swift Boat Float ...... Flying dDutchman Program?

    "Microsoft traditionally focused on desktop computers, but Mr Ozzie convinced management that in the future, processing power and functionality would be provided remotely via the web." ..... Hmmm? Mr Ozzie gives no clue there, about from where is the Supply of Source and Driver. Who or what Machine Provides Microsoft with Novel Content for Future Processing and Delivering of Feeds and Supply Needs ..... and Cash for Flow of ITs Power and Control.

    "He said Mr Ozzie would remain with Microsoft during a transitional period, and that the company was not looking for anyone to replace him." ..... Who then have they found to steer the Microsoft Octopus? A new face and mind? Something irregular and unconventional for Virtually Real Cloud ProgramMING Projects .... Live Projections.

  12. Turgut Kalfaoglu

    enough of the death star?

    He probably had enough working for the dark side?

  13. Anton Ivanov

    MSFT has hired enough people in the meantime

    They may not be of Ozzie's caliber, but they can deliver on some of his visions.

    This guy for starters:

    There are also quite a few others which have been hired during Ozzie's tenure so if the company actually wants to deliver on the "three screens and a cloud" vision there are people there to do that who have experience in developing, launching and operating software on top of hyperscale datacenter infrastructure.

    The question is "Does MSFT really want to deliver?" If the reason for Ozzie's exit was MSFT deciding once again to defend the legacy and kill the future on non-cannibalisation grounds we will see these guys leave within the next couple of months.

    It will become clear soon enough. We live in a day and age when it is possible to see through corporate spin right away by simply following people's movements on LinkedIn. It does not matter how much a company is trying to spin its "looking into the future vision". If the people who are to build that future are leaving in droves, then everyone can see that the vision is not going to happen.

  14. kevin elliott

    Rats leaving a sinking ship?

    Pity, that guy has talent. But it seems that Balmer's the real problem. Just pisses off the guys at the top who should be driving the company.

    As for trashing notes - just remember how good/radical it was compared to anything else when it was released - and for years after. IBM bought Lotus for notes, and effectively trashed the other poducts. Blame IBM for Note's stagnation - they've milked the product for many many years - and have done very little to develop it.... Like any other innovative product, if you sit back, the competition overtake and leave you sitting.

  15. Sentient

    Brain vs the Heart

    "He's rarely spoken in public to articulate or evangelize a vision to inspire the Windows or .NET faithful."

    Oops sensitive issue here.

    On the few occasions that I saw him in public he was very clear and capable at getting the idea across. He came across as a person with a vision capable of getting his company to execute that. This is what I would expect from a software architect.

    I wonder why people expect technical smart people to be good at inspiring others or profiling themselves.

    I wonder why researchers have to produce lots of papers.

    I wonder why professors have to become managers.


    Can't you just be good at what you're doing and getting credit for that?

    Anyway smart guy leaves big company, big company loses.

    1. Cris E

      @Sentient: This is what I would expect from a software architect.

      "On the few occasions that I saw him in public he was very clear and capable at getting the idea across. He came across as a person with a vision capable of getting his company to execute that. This is what I would expect from a software architect.... I wonder why people expect technical smart people to be good at inspiring others or profiling themselves."

      Inspiring others is an important part of architecture.

      Architecture serves little purpose if developers won't follow it, and forcing them to do so only works some of the time. Frankly architecture works better when sold as a good thing rather than a required thing, and outside your building you can't force customers to do anything anyway. So if you want your architecture to go anywhere you need to convince developers to follow it. You can try to get the developers themselves to carry the flag, but when you want a coherent message you can't count on herding the cats in your direction. That's when you want a Chief Architect, and it's why he wasn't as successful as he could have been.

      Of course the other reason he didn't set the world alight was that the company is a Ballmer production and subject to his utterly benighted view of the future. Gates was a number of things, but at the end of the day he could pick a direction and get everyone marching. Monkey Steve hasn't got the good nose for direction and he isn't able to get his troops moving well.

      1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge


        Ballmer is a sergeant, not a general. He can follow orders, but he doesn't have vision.

        And without decent leadership, MS is sinking. It's been visible for a while, even before the Vista debacle. It wouldn't surprise me if their stock started tanking because even nontech people finally start to cotton on to this.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "who's doing the big technology thinking now.."

    What big technology ? - Microsoft is just a marketing operation now.

    1. Tom 13

      What mean 'um "now"?

      MS has ALWAYS been just a marketing operation. It's just that they use to market so well many people THOUGHT they were a technology company.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Tom 13

        No, no - I distinctly remember having one of their 8K Basics in the early days. Mind it had a serious garbage collection bug - some things don't change.

  17. Dom 3

    Begs the question?

    Anyway, if MS ends up without a chief software architect - will anybody notice?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "who's doing the big technology thinking now"?

    That would be MS' competitors: Ballmer seems quite happy to follow where others lead, although he doesn't seem to be terribly good at it

    1. Doug Glass


      To Microsoft, all the other companies are simply R&D at arm's length.

  19. Bilgepipe

    What can possibly go wrong?

    The world's biggest software company doesn't need a Chief Software Architect? So what was Gates doing in the role all that time?

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Ballmer did it...

    Clearly Ballmer is afraid he might get the boot, that's why he's systematically eradicating any credible competitors for the top job inside Microsoft. Frankly, who can you now think of within the company who might have the wherewithal to replace Ballmer?

    Sometime during 2011 WP7 will prove to be a dud, Microsoft will still not have a tablet presence (which by then will be ever more hyped without providing any additional functionality). Ballmer would have to step down, but the board will need to chose someone is his place.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So what...

    While my first impression is "who cares" my sarcastic side asks ... would he please take the ribbon with him when he goes.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Hire Ozzie Osbourne in his place

    Then he could bite the head off Ballmer.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Now MS has some chances!

    Did noone notice that MS problems started when Ozzie arrived? What did he after Lotus Notes (a good idea with one of the worst implementations ever seen. Applying its GUI to other Lotus products finished to kill them. Office and Exchange didn't take much to become the leaders)? He spent his time to reinvent his own wheel. There are far better minds at Microsoft, maybe with the Wizard of Ozzie out of the way they have a chance to deliver far better ideas and products.

  24. Snert Lee

    MS's New Source of Innovation

    Microsoft's next source of innovation will be a reality show/competition called Innovate!, or Die!

    Loser's will be treated to a demonstration of just how much damage Steve Ballmer can coax out of a standard office chair, while winner's will go on to make promo ads where they take credit for specific OS features that Microsoft would prefer not to be responsible for.

  25. Big-nosed Pengie


    MS doesn't, indeed, need a software architect. MS has never been a software company--it's a marketing company--the best the world has ever seen. It produces third rate crap (or buys good stuff and turns it into third date crap) which it markets with a genius beyond anything the world has ever seen.

  26. Girts
    Thumb Up

    Miguel de Icaza's will be in Roy place

    I am 100% sure that Miguel de Icaza's is person in place of Ozzie!

  27. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

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    Are Microsoft into XSSXXXX Private Key Play ...... 42 Unlock Heavenly Doors with PerlyPython Gates .... Virtually Real Switches into SurReal IDEntities.

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