A press release, in the form of a memo from CEO Steve Ballmer, tells us that Ray Ozzie is to step down from his role as Chief Software Architect. He is not leaving the company:
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 … Ray will be focusing his efforts in the broader area of entertainment where Microsoft has many ongoing investments.
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. He championed Live Mesh, which I thought had promise but proved disappointing on further investigation, and was later merged with Live Synch, becoming a smaller initiative than was once envisaged. Balmer says Ozzie was also responsible for “conceiving, incubating and shepherding” Windows Azure, in which case he deserves credit for what seems to be a solid platform.
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. Ballmer says he won’t refill the CSA role, which is a shame in some ways. A gifted strategist and communicator in that role could bring the company considerable benefit.