October 19, 2010 1:19 am

Microsoft cloud computing leader to depart

Ray Ozzie, the software visionary who was hired to galvanise Microsoft’s attempt to overhaul its business for the internet era, is to leave the company after a brief transition, it was announced unexpectedly on Monday.

Mr Ozzie joined five years ago as the hand-picked successor to Bill Gates as chief software architect, a role that had been invented for the Microsoft co-founder when he stepped aside as chief executive more than a decade ago.

However, in spite of helping to nudge Microsoft further down the road towards “cloud” computing, in which centralised data centres are expected to take on a greater role in the tech world, Mr Ozzie’s impact on the company has not been as far-reaching as some industry analysts had hoped.

“He was trying to push against the wind to accelerate the change,” said Wesley Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft. “They’re a slow-moving company that needs to move faster.” Microsoft’s slow progress in cloud computing was one reason that Goldman Sachs downgraded its recommendation on the company’s stock earlier this month after many years of rating it a “buy”.

Mr Ozzie won early prominence at Microsoft after warning that a coming “internet services disruption” threatened its core software business, and calling on the company to create internet services as complements to all its products.

However, since spearheading the development early on of Windows Azure, which was billed as a version of the software operating system for large datacentres, Mr Ozzie’s role has become less visible. The Azure project was transferred into the company’s server and tools division nine months ago.

In an internal memo to Microsoft employees, Steve Ballmer, chief executive, paid tribute to Mr Ozzie’s work in helping to “catalyse our drive to the cloud”, though he added that the role of chief software architect would not be filled after his departure.

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