Questions Remain About Ray Ozzie at Microsoft

There's no way we're getting into this entry without setting the mood with a little classic Janet Jackson asking the question some observers have asked of Ray Ozzie recently: "What have you done for me lately?" (Ooh-ooh-ooh yeah. Oh, yeah. It's in your head now.)

Maybe the better question is, "What has Ray Ozzie done for Microsoft lately?" While we admit that we jumped the gun on what we thought was Ozzie's exit from the critical Microsoft Azure cloud computing project, we're not the only ones wondering about Ozzie's role in Redmond.

In particular, the clever folks at a site called xconomy, who clearly monitor RCPU closely (as everybody should), wrote this week about Ozzie having possibly lost some internal power struggles in Redmond to Windows Division President Steven Sinofsky. We don't know anything about that situation and won't speculate on it. We're just throwing that could-be news nugget out there second-hand. Take it as you wish, or don't take it at all. We don't care.

And we're not here to pick on Ray Ozzie, either. Far from it. Although RCPU hasn't talked to him personally, everybody we know has good things to say about him. And we're not just talking about Microsoft people here, either. Partners, customers, analysts...even journalists and bloggers(!) speak well of him. We've can't remember ever hearing a negative word about Ozzie. So, we trust that he's a good guy and a capable executive.

But xconomy goes ahead and asks the question we kind of danced around in our first entry on Ozzie last week, which is, basically, what is Ray Ozzie doing at Microsoft, exactly? His Live Mesh project is still a bit amorphous and seems to have just folded into Azure somehow. And while Microsoft assures us that Ozzie is as active as he's ever been on Azure and that his role on the project hasn't changed, he's not actually in charge of the project anymore.

Again, the move of Azure from Ozzie's purview to Bob Muglia's control is probably a totally sensible, business-focused, classic Redmond reorg. But even a reasonable explanation of the shift doesn't help answer some of the key questions about the man who was supposed to be, from a technical perspective, the next Bill Gates.

What has Ozzie accomplished at Microsoft since he arrived there in 2005? What will his legacy be -- will it be Azure? Is that still his baby or not? (Yes, we know that his role hasn't changed. But we're not 100 percent sure what that role is -- and it's doubtful that anybody outside of Redmond really knows.) Or was Azure ever "his" project, really? Whatever happened to Live Mesh? And is a great technical mind falling victim -- as leaky, unidentified sources quoted in random blog entries are beginning to suggest -- to political gamesmanship within the walls of Microsoft's campus?

Nobody seems to know the answers to any of those questions. And they're important. We're talking about one of the top figures at the mothership for Microsoft partners here. We're talking about a visionary hand-picked by Gates himself. We're talking about the leadership of Microsoft's super-important cloud and "hybrid" cloud initiatives. We're talking, potentially, about the very future of Microsoft, which, like a lot of technology companies, has mostly been a personality-driven, top-down organization over the years. Is Ozzie the person who will lead Microsoft innovation into the future? Is he doing it now? See, more questions...there are only more questions.

In the summer of 2009, Mary Jo Foley wrote a column for Redmond magazine suggesting that Microsoft was splitting into two camps: Friends of Bill (Gates) and Friends of Steve (Ballmer). She also mentioned that some folks in Redmond are wondering exactly what Ozzie is up to there. To be fair (as Mary Jo would surely note), he has since become a more public figure, particularly around Azure. But, then, even if his role hasn't changed, Azure's not officially "his" anymore. So, where does all of this leave Ray Ozzie? And what has he done for Microsoft lately? Right now, we have more questions than answers. Maybe Janet Jackson can help us. Nobody else seems to be able to.

What's your take on Ray Ozzie's role at Microsoft? Do you have any inside info to pass along? Send your thoughts and tips to [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on December 16, 20091 comments

Windows Mobile 7 Delayed Again

Ugh, this is just a mess. With Google charging into the smartphone market, Microsoft has revealed that...Windows Mobile 7 has been delayed. Again. The new new new due date is late 2010. We'll see.

Posted by Lee Pender on December 16, 20091 comments

Ray Ozzie and Microsoft Azure

Blogging is a funny thing. We at RCPU have always referred to RCPU as a newsletter, in part because it is an actual e-mail newsletter for subscribers (and was before it was ever a blog) and in part because, for us, the word "blog" doesn't carry a lot of credibility. Blogs are like opinions (which are like...something else): Everybody has one, or so it seems. 

This week, though, RCPU was definitely more blog than newsletter. We took a blog entry from Microsoft (via an entry from one of our sister sites) and misinterpreted what it was saying, thereby making more of a story than what was really there. In this case, the story was Ray Ozzie's apparent exit from Azure development at Microsoft. Well, Ozzie's role in Azure hasn't changed. If you want more detail, read on.

We often use the words "apparently" or "as far as we can tell" in this newsletter because, well, honestly, your editor doesn't have time to report first-hand the entries you see here. We focus here on commenting on news stories other people have written or on interesting things we pull off the Web. And most of the time, we understand pretty well what the stories we use are saying. (We almost never actually write news, though, and don't claim to do so. Yes, we do realize that the word "newsletter" can be misleading, but we still like it.)

So, we were surprised to read that Microsoft, in consolidating its Azure operations with Bob Muglia's Server and Tools business, appeared to be taking Ray Ozzie off of Azure, which was a major project for him and of which he has become, to some extent, the public face of late. In our defense, Microsoft's own blog entry on the reorg wasn't crystal clear.

But after our blog entry on Ozzie and Azure ran this week, we got an e-mail from Microsoft's PR firm (hey, somebody's paying attention) clarifying Ozzie's role in Azure development. It reads:

"In short, as chief software architect at Microsoft, Ray is responsible for oversight of the company's technical strategy and product architecture. Ray's role isn't affected by this change. Ray will continue to be very involved with Windows Azure; however, as Microsoft prepares to begin billing customers for the service in February, it makes sense that Windows Azure would move from an advanced development project under Ray's oversight into a mainstream business in a product group at the company (with full marketing, sales, etc., support)."

So, there you go. The key phrase is that second sentence: "Ray's role isn't affected by this change." Instead of being an earthquake, this is just a typical Microsoft reorg, one that moves Azure from a development stage (under Ozzie's oversight) to a business stage (under Muglia's). It makes total sense and really isn't such a big deal at all -- and it doesn't mean that Microsoft has booted Ozzie from the Azure world. We're sorry that we jumped the gun on this one, and we're glad that Microsoft set us straight. We seek above all else to be accurate and fair.

Of course, none of that explains what's happening with Live Mesh, which seems to have just disappeared into Azure, but that's another blog -- sorry, newsletter -- entry for another time.

Posted by Lee Pender on December 11, 20091 comments

Microsoft Buys Health Care Software Maker Sentillion

Redmond beefed up its health care IT portfolio this week with the purchase of RCPU's neighbor (sort of), Andover, Mass.-based Sentillion. Redmond magazine columnist and Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley has some insight on how Microsoft is going to fold its new purchase into the health care family in Redmond.

Posted by Lee Pender on December 11, 20090 comments

Redmond Releases Open Source Windows 7 Download Tool

Remember the proprietary download tool Microsoft released that kind of, sort of accidentally ripped off some open source code? Well, the tool is an open source tool now.

Posted by Lee Pender on December 11, 20090 comments

Tech Data CIO To Retire

Joseph A. Osbourn will step down in June and John Tonnison will ascend to the throne of CIO of one of the world's biggest distributors on Feb. 1. Happy retirement, Mr. Osbourn.      

Posted by Lee Pender on December 11, 20090 comments

Redmond Talks Tough About Google

A Microsoft sales and marketing executive said something this week about stealing Google's lunch, which made us immediately forget what we were going to say about this story and head to the kitchen for a snack.

Posted by Lee Pender on December 10, 20090 comments

Will Cloud Computing Fly in 2010?

We told you during most of 2008 and all of 2009 that cloud computing was not just a model for the future but was here now -- and it is, sort of. But a lot of companies still have doubts about security, uptime and data ownership, meaning the cloud model hasn't yet soared quite as much as we thought it would. (Yes, we jumped the gun a little bit on this one.) But one analyst now says that 2010 could be a breakthrough year for cloud computing, and we all know that analysts never get anything wrong...right?

Posted by Lee Pender on December 10, 20090 comments

Germany To Bail Out Windows Users

OK, so this isn't the most important story for Microsoft partners, but it's just darn interesting. Get this: The German government is going to fund an effort to help Windows users rid their machines of malware.

No, seriously! According to a blog entry by a guy who can read German better than we can, the German government is going to team with ISPs to find infected machines and help users clean malware off of their computers. The leader of the project is Germany's Federal Office for Information Security, which is part of the country's federal government. It's not clear at this point whether Microsoft will have any involvement in this, but we're getting the feeling that it won't -- which makes the whole thing all the more strange.

This is crazy, right? We're allocating a lot of government money to projects in the U.S. right now, many of which are technology-oriented. But a Windows-specific (which, as far as we can tell, it is) bailout for users whose computers are afflicted by malware? A help desk and Web site set up and funded by the government with the aim of keeping Windows clean? We at RCPU don't remember TARP, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (or whatever it's called) or any other government-run program covering that sort of thing on these shores.

Needless to say, as fans of government playing a limited role in business in general, we're dizzy-headed (even more so than usual) with shock over this. Even France, your editor's country of residence for a few years not so long ago and a nation with a bent for government intervention into everything, hasn't done anything like this (to our memory, anyway). It's interesting, though, that Germany is essentially giving Microsoft a subsidy, given that (dig this) Firefox recently passed Internet Explorer in market share in Germany. Hmm. Oh, and the government isn't telling anyone what it's spending on this little charity mission, either.

Anyway, we can't think of anything more to say about this. We just thought it was funny and bizarre and...well, a little bit nuts. If you have thoughts on Germany's Windows bailout, send them to [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on December 10, 20092 comments

Microsoft Tries To Break Up Oracle-Sun Party

It's a done deal in the U.S., but the European Union's regulators still have to approve Oracle's purchase of Sun. And guess who's going to be there to try to put the kibosh on the whole thing? Oh, yes. Microsoft.

What's funny is that, just about the time the Microsoft-in-Brussels news came out on this, the infamous Neelie Kroes, the European Commission's competition commissioner and no friend to Microsoft over the years, started expressing optimism about the Oracle-Sun deal.

Hey, Redmond, maybe you should have left well enough alone on this one. You're not exactly anybody's guest of honor in Brussels these days.

Posted by Lee Pender on December 10, 20090 comments

Ozzie Apparently Exits Azure

Kathleen Richards, your editor's Framingham office mate and editor extraordinaire for the developer branch of the Redmond Media Group family, posted a little blog item on Tuesday afternoon that caught RCPU's eye.

It seems innocuous enough -- and it might be. On the surface, it's just another Microsoft reorg in which the company is combining its Azure business with its Windows Server and Solutions Group. No big deal, right? Maybe not, but dig this from Kate's blog entry:

"The Windows Azure development team is part of this transition and will no longer report to Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief software architect. Instead, the dev team is part of the new Server and Cloud division headed by Amitabh Srivastava, a senior VP who reports to Muglia."

That's Bob Muglia, head of the server and tools business at Microsoft, who has, to be fair, been a major driver of Azure since the project's inception. But Ozzie has become a public face of Azure recently, as well; he even delivered an Azure-themed keynote at last month's professional developer conference.

So, what does this reorg mean? Is Ozzie off of Azure? It sure looks that way. We at RCPU haven't met Ozzie, but we've heard near-universal praise of him. He's extremely sharp, we hear, and he's got the technical chops and the market savvy to move Microsoft into the next phase of technology -- primarily the cloud.

Remember, Ozzie was supposed to be the next Bill Gates when he arrived at Microsoft in 2005. He holds, after all, Gates' old title of chief software architect. And his Live Mesh idea -- a sort of personal cloud thing, as we understood it -- garnered some interest among partners, users and developers. But Azure appears to have consumed Live Mesh, at least on the enterprise side. And Ozzie's not on Azure anymore, from what we can tell.

So, what gives? What is Ray Ozzie's mission at Microsoft now? And will Azure take a different path without his influence? Muglia is more than capable of running Azure development; we're not questioning his ability at all. We're just kind of wondering why Ozzie was shaping up to be the public face of Azure and now appears to be largely absent from its development process. And we're wondering what Microsoft wants to do with Ozzie -- and vice versa.

This news leaves us with more questions than answers, as Microsoft reorgs often do. In the past, they've tended to work out pretty well. But in the post-Gates era, there's more uncertainty about Redmond's overall business and standing in the industry than ever before. Is there uncertainty inside Microsoft, too? For partners' sake, we hope not -- especially with regard to something as important and all-consuming as Azure. As usual, we'll just have to wait and see.

What's your take on Ray Ozzie and the Azure reorg? Send it to [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on December 09, 20093 comments

Colbert Talks up Windows 7 Hamburger

American folk hero and freedom-fighting journalist Stephen Colbert uncovered one of the great stories of 2009 on his show this week: the Windows 7 hamburger currently being served up by Burger King in Japan. (Go about 3:10 into this clip to see what we're talking about.) Yes, the Windows 7 hamburger (which really does have a Microsoft promotional tie-in) has seven -- seven! -- meat patties in between its buns.

Throw a little mustard (that's how we do it in Texas) and some lettuce, tomato and pickles on that baby, and we'll stop eating the XP burgers we've been wolfing down since 2001. Unfortunately, as Colbert laments, the Windows 7 burger is only available in Japan. Microsoft and Burger King, this is an injustice you must correct.

Posted by Lee Pender on December 09, 20090 comments