Ray Ozzie is Microsoft's top visionary, an executive who at one time was seen as a possible successor to Bill Gates. So it's not surprising that his decision to step down as chief software architect would have a disquieting effect on channel partners, particularly since Microsoft doesn't plan on replacing him.
Ozzie, the architect of Microsoft's Windows Azure platform-as-a-service, and other cloud initiatives such as Live Mesh, has played a behind-the-scenes role at Microsoft that hasn't included much interaction with channel partners. Nonetheless, partners are well aware of the guiding role Ozzie has played in Microsoft's SaaS and cloud computing business and they're curious about who will handle that leadership role in the future.
"When Bill Gates left, Ray Ozzie was a logical choice to fill his shoes," said Ken Winell, CEO of ExpertCollab, a Microsoft solution provider in Florham Park, N.J. "Under Ozzie's leadership, the cloud computing and collaboration environments grew, and I'm concerned over who Microsoft will find to replace him."
However, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has already said he doesn't plan on hiring a replacement for the chief software architect role. Solution providers believe this would be a mistake on Microsoft's part.
Michael Cocanower, president of Phoenix-based Microsoft solution provider ITSynergy, says Ozzie's departure "leaves a real void" in terms of product innovation and leadership. "With Ozzie leaving, and the torch not being passed to anyone, I'm concerned over Microsoft's direction and strategy," he said.
Next: Microsoft's Side Of The Story