Ray Ozzie's leaving Microsoft: What took him so long?

While the mainstream press has made much of the 'surprise' departure of Microsoft's chief software architect, I can't help but wonder why Ozzie waited this long

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Ozzie was also directly involved in designing and rolling out Live Mesh, a handful of groundbreaking technologies that help weave applications and data together in the cloud. When it finally hit the ground, Windows Live Sync, er, Mesh, lost several key features from its earlier implementation. I talked about Live Mesh's less-than-stellar incarnation as Windows Live Mesh last month.

Then there was Live Labs. In January 2006, with much fanfare, Microsoft launched Live Labs for "rapidly developing and deploying Internet technologies" in direct competition with Google. It was one of Ozzie's pet projects, taking on Google mano a mano in the cloud. Two weeks ago, Microsoft disbanded Live Labs, it moved the team over to the Bing group, and the leader of Live Labs left.

A year ago Ozzie founded Future Social Experiences (Fuse) Labs. Tasked with "releasing new applications and services that address the rich, real-time, and social nature of our everyday lives," Fuse Labs is now best known for the privacy-challenged application called docs.com that runs on Facebook. How the mighty have fallen.

Then there's the personality thing. Ozzie is anything but a Ballmer toadie. I was -- and still am -- amazed at the difference in perception and vision displayed at the D8 conference in June. Watch the full interview and you'll see: Ozzie "gets" the cloud, no question. Ballmer's grasp leaves something to be desired. (Ozzie's correcting Ballmer on stage rates as a nonpareil career-limiting move, even at his level, but I digress.)

Ozzie isn't the only frustrated genius at Microsoft. The Redmond campus is packed with 'em. But his departure marks a real turning point in Microsoft's devolution, er, evolution.

Some people see Ozzie's departure as a triumph of the old Windows/Office school over the cloud-enamored young Turks. I think there's some truth in that. But I also see it as a situation where a brilliant designer just didn't have traction in the company to bring his visions to reality. Even at Ray Ozzie's vaunted level, as a direct descendant of Bill, he couldn't pull together the teams or the resources to make his ideas real.

This article, "Ray Ozzie's leaving Microsoft: What took him so long?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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