How Will Ray Ozzie's Departure Affect Microsoft's Cloud Computing Future?

| About: Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)
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Monday’s announcement that Ray Ozzie is retiring from Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is newsworthy because he has been at the heart of the company’s efforts to keep pace with the rapidly evolving Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and broader Cloud Computing movement.

Ozzie joined Microsoft when his company, Groove Networks, was acquired in 2005. Groove was an independent software vendor (ISV) trying to commercialize the groupware ideas which Ozzie had pioneered with Lotus Notes.

Around the same time as the acquisition, Bill Gates warned Microsoft’s employees of the far-reaching implications of the coming “Internet Tidal Wave” in an infamous internal memo which quickly became public and stated:

This coming ’services wave’ will be very disruptive… Services designed to scale to tens or hundreds of millions will dramatically change the nature and cost of solutions deliverable to enterprises or small businesses.

Ozzie issued his own memo warning about the “The Internet Services Disruption” shortly after he arrived at Microsoft in October, 2005, in which he stated:

Computing and communications technologies have dramatically and progressively improved to enable the viability of a services-based model.

Although Microsoft never fully implemented a set of collaborative solutions like Lotus Notes beyond its Sharepoint and Exchange capabilities, Ozzie was named one of the company’s three CTOs and eventually became Chief Software Architect after Gates retired from his day-to-day responsibilities. In this role, Ozzie assumed responsibility for leading Microsoft into the SaaS/Cloud world.

Over the past year, Microsoft has replaced its self-serving “Software Plus Service” mantra with a new “All-In” attitude about SaaS and the Cloud Computing, and rolled out its own Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), called Azure. After being the brunt of industry jokes, it is beginning to regain its momentum in the software industry as a result of these moves.

So, why is Ray Ozzie leaving now that his vision is beginning to become a reality?

Since Ballmer and Ozzie aren’t offering a clear explanation, we can only speculate that Microsoft still has a long way to go to achieving Ozzie’s vision and he doesn’t have enough energy to see it through. Or, the company isn’t really on the path to success and Ozzie is tired of trying to push it in the right direction.

Of course, it could also be a case of Ozzie simply looking to enjoy more time with his family, or recognizing that it is time for someone else to take the helm of Microsoft’s SaaS/Cloud efforts. But, these intentions and the name(s) of a successor are usually included in an announcement of this nature. This wasn’t the case in Monday’s announcement.

Either way, it will be interesting to see where Microsoft goes from here and if its SaaS/Cloud Computing efforts are derailed by Ozzie’s departure.

Disclosure: No positions