Is Ray Ozzie On His Way Out At Microsoft?


That's a question some industry pundits are asking in the wake of Microsoft's move to shift leadership of the Windows Azure development team from Ozzie to Bob Muglia, president of the Server And Tools division.

Ozzie, who oversees Microsoft's technical strategy and product architecture, is the mastermind behind the Windows Azure cloud computing platform and its biggest public proponent. The fact that Ozzie is no longer leading Azure development, combined with Microsoft's ongoing mobile struggles, is raising questions about whether Ozzie plans to stick around.

On Tuesday, Xconomy Seattle reported that Ozzie earlier this year lost a power struggle over Windows Live to Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows Division. As a result, Ozzie's "power and influence is gone," according to an unnamed former Microsoft executive quoted by Xconomy Seattle.

Influential IT analyst Mark Anderson, who last week declared that except for gaming, "it is game over" for Microsoft in the consumer space, also wouldn't be surprised if Ozzie left Microsoft in the not-too-distant future, according toMicrosoft watcher Mary Jo Foley.

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Microsoft's struggles with Windows Mobile were brought into sharper relief recently when a Microsoft executive said Windows Mobile 7 won't be ready until late 2010. The repeated delays have prevented Ozzie's "three screens and the cloud" vision from taking shape, and Anderson doesn't believe Microsoft can ever fix its mobile problems.

Microsoft couldn't be reached for comment for this story. But when it announced the reshuffle, Microsoft downplayed the significance of moving Azure development out of Ozzie's control and said his role would continue to involve overseeing technical strategy and product architecture.

In a post earlier this month to the Windows Server Division blog, Microsoft said the Server & Cloud Division (SCD), which combines the Windows Server & Solutions and Windows Azure groups, reflects Azure's maturation from "an advanced development project to a mainstream business."

Of course, it may have been Ozzie's plan all along to move on to the next strategic endeavor once Azure was ready. And that's exactly the scenario that Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions On Microsoft, Kirkland, predicts will unfold.

"Ozzie was the architect for Azure -- he put together the blueprint and the plans -- but now it's time for someone else to run it from an operational standpoint," he said.