Ray Ozzie announced yesterday that he plans to step down
as Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect, after five years at the company.
The question for Microsoft now is not “Can Ozzie be replaced?” Instead, they should be asking whether the company needs a chief architect at all.
Trying to assess Ozzie’s impact on Microsoft is tricky. He joined Microsoft in 2005 as the designated successor for Bill Gates. The company made it official the next year, giving him the Chief Software Architect title when Gates stepped down from full-time duties at Microsoft. But as my colleague Mary Jo Foley noted last year
, Ozzie wasn’t exactly a drop-in replacement for Gates. He “hasn’t found it easy fitting in culturally in Microsoft’s dog-eat-dog culture,” she noted, accurately. Aside from a few keynote appearances, Ozzie has been almost invisible as a public face of Microsoft. And behind the scenes, I cannot remember ever talking to a Microsoft developer or manager who brought up Ozzie’s name as a source of inspiration or ideas.