Is Ray Ozzie on the way out at Microsoft?

Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie is a brilliant technologist who has not achieved anything approaching brilliance in his time at Microsoft. And now an influential tech analyst and friend of Ozzie's says he believes that Ozzie may be on the way out at Microsoft, sooner rather than later.

In a recent blog, Microsoft watcher Mary-Jo Foley quotes the top 10 predictions for 2010 of Mark Anderson, author of the Strategic News Service newsletter, and an influential tech watcher. But the most intriguing tidbit in the blog came lower than that, when she says this:

Anderson, who noted that Ozzie is a friend of his, said he wouldn't be surprised for Ozzie [to be] leaving Microsoft some time in the relative near-term. Ozzie hasn't found it easy fitting in culturally in Microsoft's dog-eat-dog culture.

That wouldn't surprise me in the least. Ozzie, as I've previously written, is one of the few true software visionaries. He worked on VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet; wrote the Lotus Symphony office suite; and then launched his own companies, developing both Lotus Notes and Groove Virtual Office. Microsoft bought his company, Groove Networks, in April, 2005, and Ozzie became Microsoft's chief technical office. Then, in June, 2006 he was promoted to chief software architect.

Since then, he's accomplished very little at Microsoft, through no fault of his own. Ozzie is a big believer in networking and collaborative software, but Microsoft still hasn't managed to make a go of it. Groove has been relegated to the sidelines and the Web-based version of Office lacks synchronization features. The "Live" brand is an incoherent mix of Web services and downloadable software with nothing in common except the name "Live." True, there are some nice pieces there, such as Windows Live Sync. But as a group of services, it's a mess.

Back in October, I wrote in Why has Ray Ozzie failed at Microsoft?:

...why has Ozzie not been able to make his mark at Microsoft? It has nothing to do with his vision or intelligence, certainly. Rather, it most likely has to do with culture. There are too many people protecting too much turf. And Microsoft has still not fully embraced the collaborative nature of the Web. Until that changes, no matter how brilliant he is, he won't make a major difference at the company.

If Anderson is right, it appears that Ozzie will leave before remaking Microsoft into the company it needs to be if it is to hold off Google.

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