In a press conference today it was announced that Bill Gates will transition his Chief Software Architect role to Ray Ozzie over the next couple of years. Ozzie assumes the title of Chief Software Architect effective immediately. Gates will continue to work part-time at Microsoft (I can't see him ever NOT being involved with Microsoft in some capacity), but the bulk of his time will be at the Gates Foundation. More from Dan Farber and thanks Mike Arrington for the heads-up. Microsoft employee Alex Barnett also has coverage from the press conference.
This is great news for the Web, because Ray Ozzie has been the driving force behind Microsoft's Software as a Service strategy and the rollout of Windows Live - 'bet the company' initiatives which are founded on Web technology, as well as leveraging Microsoft's traditional OS and desktop software strengths. Ozzie has been a Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft since his company Groove Networks was acquired in March 2005, so it's been a fast and meteoric rise for him!
This news signals to me that Microsoft is very much full-steam ahead in their move to online software and becoming a media company. The times they are 'a changing.
Update: Microsoft's Don Dodge has published an excerpt from an internal employee memo from Bill Gates about the move:
"Right now and for the next two years, my full-time job is here at Microsoft, and my part-time job remains the Foundation. Beginning in July 2008, I will switch that, to be full-time at the Foundation, while remaining involved with Microsoft as Chairman and an advisor on key development projects on a part-time basis.
To prepare for this change, we have a well-thought-out transition process. Again, I will continue at Microsoft full-time for the next two years, but over the course of those two years, my day-to-day responsibilities will shift to a team of incredible technical leaders who are already doing amazing things at the company.
I feel very lucky that we’ve got extraordinary technical leaders at the company, like Ray Ozzie and Craig Mundie, who can step up to assume the roles that I’ve played. I’ve known Ray for the last 20 years, and he has created some of the most important developments in the industry. Craig and I have worked together for nearly 14 years, and he’s been a technical visionary and a leader on policy throughout his career. With Ray and Craig stepping up, I feel very confident that the technical stewardship of Microsoft is in very capable hands."