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What's next for the post-Ozzie Microsoft? No one knows.

October 26, 2010: 12:33 PM ET

As a giant of technology departs, it's time to start asking, what's next for Steve Ballmer's Microsoft?

When Microsoft (MSFT) announced Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie would be moving on, some viewed it as another blow to a company with a bit of a vision problem. Ozzie was only the second person to be the company's CSA -- the first being founder Bill Gates, who took the role upon retiring as CEO, but gave it to Ozzie in 2006. Ozzie's not the only recent departure among the top ranks. Just last month, Business Division President Stephen Elop left for Nokia (NOK). James Allard, who led the XBOX and Zune projects, left earlier this year, too.

In many insider circles, Ozzie was seen as a visionary -- the Lotus Notes inventor had even been called "the next Bill Gates." So hopes were high, especially given his presentations and various memos over the years detailing his vision of how the company's software should evolve, most famously one titled, The Internet Services Disruption. Though the company credits him with bringing the company's cloud platforms Azure and Windows Live, up to speed, it's clear Ozzie in some ways never quite got his arms around all the company's efforts -- and it's fair to wonder whether any one person still can. Perhaps that's why CEO Steve Ballmer is retiring the CSA role, with no plans to replace Ozzie once he departs. (Or perhaps it's because Ozzie's far-reaching idealism clashed with Steve Ballmer's more short-term, business-oriented ambitions and there's no reason Ballmer would willingly start a similar relationship with another "visionary.") More

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