Microsoft counting on wizard of Ozzie

Ray Ozzie could just be living proof of the adage that a firm’s best asset is its people. That line is usually trotted out when one technology firm acquires another, but in Ozzie’s case it could have been used twice already — once when he worked at Lotus and IBM boss Lou Gerstner saw keeping him onboard essential to his buying of the company and then again, when the firm he founded, Groove Networks, was bought by Microsoft last year.

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By  Ali Masud Published  June 25, 2006

|~|69commentbody.jpg|~|Microsoft CEO Ballmer and chairman Gates are counting on Ozzie.|~|Ray Ozzie could just be living proof of the adage that a firm’s best asset is its people. That line is usually trotted out when one technology firm acquires another, but in Ozzie’s case it could have been used twice already — once when he worked at Lotus and IBM boss Lou Gerstner saw keeping him onboard essential to his buying of the company and then again, when the firm he founded, Groove Networks, was bought by Microsoft last year. With two of the IT industries biggest players have already endorsed Ozzie’s credentials in such a manner, there is no real doubt about his technical ability. The question is, will technical know-how be enough to take on his new role: chief software architect at Microsoft or, put another way, Bill Gates’ replacement. This month’s announcement by Gates that he is to stand down from that role immediately, as part of a two-year plan to end full-time employment at the firm altogether, puts Ozzie under the spotlight. You almost have to sympathise. For a start, there is the problem of just who it is that Ozzie has to replace. Usually, when you take on a new job, people look at how well you do in it compared to your predecessor. That can be daunting when that predecessor is seen to have done a good job. When he is seen to have built the company from scratch into the biggest name in the business (and made himself the richest man in the world in the process), daunting may not be quite the right word. For another, Microsoft is generally considered to be facing as tough a set of challenge as it has ever faced as it bids to maintain its pre-eminence in the IT industry. The increased focus on search technology — characterised by the rise of Google — the open source software movement, software-as-a-service, and the much-hyped Web 2.0 are all technology trends that Microsoft needs to find answers to. Also, while Microsoft has found itself under threat from emerging technologies before - the rise of the internet in the mid-1990s immediately springs to mind — it itself was a very different organisation then. The company is now much larger and more bureaucratic — and consequently less agile and less able to respond to competition than it could before. While it may be a tough task, it doesn’t seem to be one that has Ozzie worried unduly. “If you look at my past, and the kinds of technological challenges that I’ve dealt with, one of the things that I truly enjoy is taking on things that are complex challenges,” he told journalists this month. “It’s large, but to me it’s not daunting. This is something that I can do where I can take all of the experiences I’ve gained in 30 years in the industry and apply many or most of those lessons,” he claimed. Microsoft and its customers will be hoping he can indeed do so, and do so well. ||**||

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