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Business Analysis & Features

The Business On: Ray Ozzie, Chief software architect, Microsoft

The next Bill Gates?

People thought so – long seen as one of the visionaries of technology, Mr Ozzie joined Microsoft five years ago when it bought his company. The job title he was given was previously held by Mr Gates himself, a nod to the regard with which Mr Ozzie was held. Now he has surprised everyone by announcing his retirement from the role at the tender age of 54.

That sounds suspicious.

The technology world certainly smells a rat. Announcing the departure, Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer paid fulsome tribute to Mr Ozzie, but there have long been rumours of a turf war at the company. Mr Ozzie is a cloud-computing guru, you see, while other Microsoft executives see its future differently.

What are you talking about?

Get with the times. Microsoft made its fortune selling operating systems and other types of software that you load on to your computer. But lots of technology folk think the future is in the "cloud", with powerful newapplications that computer users access over the internet, rather than installing them on their own PCs.

Do people really argue about this sort of thing?

Computing executives do. Mr Ozzie's 2005 internal memo to Microsoftcolleagues, "The Internet Services Disruption", was a powerful polemic, urging the company to changedirection. For many, Mr Ozzie's ideas must have seemed very threatening.

He presumably knows his stuff?

He's got an impressive track record. The CV includes the usual high school geek period, before Mr Ozzie went on to invent Lotus Notes, the hugelysuccessful email application. He is also commercially minded, launching a string of successful companies such as Groove Networks, the one Microsoft bought.

Another blow for Microsoft then?

It looks that way. Mr Ozzie joinssenior figures such as Stephen Elop and Robbie Bach in announcing their decisions to leave Microsoft this year. Meanwhile, its great rival Apple this week unveiled yet another set of results with bumper profits.