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Microsoft's Ray Ozzie to step down from chief software architect role

Steve Ballmer says Ozzie will focus on entertainment division, possibly retire

Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie will step down from his position as chief software architect and instead focus on Microsoft's entertainment division, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced today. 

Ballmer told employees of the move in an email that was made public on Microsoft's website. Ballmer mentioned Ozzie's potential retirement, but did not say when that is likely to happen.

Ozzie, 54, had been in the Chief Software Architect position since 2006, when he began working side by side with Bill Gates to help ease Gates' transition out of a day-to-day role with the company. Ozzie first joined Microsoft as chief technical officer in 2005 when the company acquired Groove Networks, which Ozzie had founded.

Ballmer credited Ozzie with helping to fuel Microsoft's drive toward cloud computing, and said Ozzie's work at Microsoft is not complete.

"Following the natural transition time with his teams but before he retires from Microsoft, Ray will be focusing his efforts in the broader area of entertainment where Microsoft has many ongoing investments," Ballmer wrote. 

It's not clear exactly when Ozzie might retire, but Ballmer did say that the chief software architect position will not be re-filled, because it was a unique role designed for Ozzie. 

Here is the full text of Ballmer's email to employees:

 From: StevebSent: Monday, October 18, 2010To: Microsoft - All EmployeesSubject: Ray Ozzie Transition University of Washington, I sent a message to the world that we're 'all in' when it comes to the cloud. In that speech I noted that Ray's Internet Services Disruption memo nearly five years ago, and his work since, stimulated thinking across the company and helped catalyze our drive to the cloud.

This past March marked a significant milestone for the company when, in a speech at the

As a company, we've accomplished much in the past five years as we look at the cloud and services. Windows Live now serves as a natural web-based services complement to both Windows and Office. SharePoint and Exchange have now decidedly embraced the cloud. And by conceiving, incubating and shepherding Windows Azure, Ray helped ensure we have a tremendously rich platform foundation that will enable app-level innovation across the company and by customers for years to come.

With our progress in services and the cloud now full speed ahead in all aspects of our business, Ray and I are announcing today Ray's intention to step down from his role as chief software architect. He will remain with the company as he transitions the teams and ongoing strategic projects within his organization - bringing the great innovations and great innovators he's assembled into the groups driving our business. Following the natural transition time with his teams but before he retires from Microsoft, Ray will be focusing his efforts in the broader area of entertainment where Microsoft has many ongoing investments. We have tremendous opportunities in the entertainment space overall, and I'm excited about what we can accomplish. Beyond that, Ray has no plans at this time. While he'll continue to report to me during the transition, the CSA role was unique and I won't refill the role after Ray's departure. We have a strong planning process, strong technical leaders in each business group and strong innovation heading to the market.

While Ray will be onboard for a while, I'd like to thank him today for his contributions to Microsoft, both as a leader and as a long-time Microsoft ISV. As an early ISV, Ray contributed significantly to the early success of Windows. Since being at Microsoft, both through inspiration and impact he's been instrumental in our transition toward a software world now centered on services. He's always been a 'maker' and a partner, and we look forward to our continuing collaboration as his future unfolds. Ray has played a critical role in helping us to assume the leadership position in the cloud, and positioned us well for future success.

Please join me in thanking Ray and wishing him well.

Steve

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