At a time Microsoft needs someone to keep the company focused on technology more than ever we are seeing executives leaving and being replaced by management types like Ballmer rather than tech types like former Chairman Bill Gates. At this rate Microsoft may just lose more key people than Yahoo this year.
So are we seeing Microsoft turn from tech innovator to just another software company? It would seem so!
Ray Ozzie Will Join Executive Exodus from Microsoft
Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie will leave the software giant, joining an exodus of executive talent. Ozzie led Microsoft's move to the cloud and will focus on the troubled entertainment unit before he leaves. Many of Microsoft's personnel losses may be related to technologists being replaced by executives loyal to CEO Steve Ballmer.
"We have seen many Microsoft technologists leave recently. Robbie Bach and J. Allard's departures earlier this year, reportedly over clashes on technology direction, are now followed by Ray Ozzie's departure, again reportedly over clashes on technology direction," said Dora Vell, principal of Vell Executive Search.
"They are, however, significantly different, as Windows 7 did extremely well under Ray Ozzie, but the entertainment and mobile divisions led by the Bach-Allard team were suffering," she said. "On the other hand, there are rumors that Bach-Allard perhaps were not given as much full rein as they needed to win against Apple."
In the internal e-mail, Ballmer said Ozzie's work has stimulated thinking across the company and helped catalyze Microsoft's drive to the cloud over the past five years.
The fruit of Ozzie's leadership includes Windows Live, which now serves as a web-based services complement to both Windows and Office. SharePoint and Exchange are now also in the cloud. And then there's Windows Azure, which offers a foundation for more cloud-based innovations.
"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," Ballmer wrote. "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."
"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," Ballmer said. "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."
As Vell sees it, many of Microsoft's personnel losses stem from the departure of Gates himself. Deep thinkers in the space are now being replaced by operating executives who appear loyal to Ballmer. With Gates' departure, she added, many Microsoft employees seem to have lost their mojo.
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"Microsoft execs are an extremely smart bunch. Without a supreme technical brain and reverence within Microsoft like Gates, no one can really rein them in and get to consensus technically," Vell said. "Ballmer is a very strong manager and perhaps needs an equal like Bill Gates to change his perspective and persuade him of an approach. Some execs in the space that know him have called him a bully, but then again this is perhaps required to rein in all these extremely bright executives on the business side."