Notes inventor Ozzie on his first 100 days at Microsoft

Jack Vaughan

It has been more than 100 days since Ray Ozzie's firm, Groove Networks, was purchased by Microsoft Corp. In that time, the inventor of Notes (and for so long the heart and soul of Notes and Domino development) and collaboration software expert has been very visible, expounding upon his new role of chief technology officer at Microsoft. Last week, he appeared with his boss, Bill Gates, at Microsoft's annual financial analysts meeting.

During the meeting, which Microsoft described as a "fireside chat," recalling FDR's 1930s radio broadcasts, Ozzie expressed some surprise that Microsoft management was so well-focused on day-to-day and long-term issues. "I've gained a tremendous amount of respect for. . .the management processes," he said, particularly "the decision-making processes at the top to ensure execution while at the same time making significant investment decisions to ensure that we're staying on a growth path."

Of Microsoft, Ozzie said, "It feels, at every level of the company, more like a start-up, than it does a big company." Ozzie worked outside of Lotus for years as head of Iris Associates, Inc., and left to found Groove not long after IBM took over Lotus.

During the meeting, Gates emphasized the importance Microsoft attaches to people's varying styles of doing work, and the expectation he has that Ozzie and the Groove crew will make a difference. In this area, Microsoft, which targets both business and consumers, has a unique view, Gates said.

Schedules are something Microsoft is working on, Gates noted. "You'd like a work calendar that's just got your work items in it, and a family calendar that has some connection to that, but is not exactly the same. Ray and the teams are pulling things together to bring this [scheduling] to a new level."

Ozzie has found elements of Microsoft corporate culture that are familiar. He said, "A lot of the people that started Groove came from Iris where I did Notes, and some of those people came from DEC, which has a common ancestry in Dave Cutler [leader of DEC's VMS operating system effort, and, later, Microsoft's Windows/NT undertaking]. A lot of those same people are at Microsoft. There are a lot of engineering disciplines that are very much in common."

Gates and company have scooped up a lot of great talent over the years, but during the analyst meeting Gates seemed to put Ozzie on a special level. Over the past few decades, according to Gates, "[Microsoft CEO] Steve [Ballmer] and I would often sit down and say, 'If we could hire one person who's not at Microsoft, is there any way we could get Ray to come?' And so whenever he would go and do something new, we'd always see, and finally this time we found a great combination where we could take not only the work of Groove but also a pretty incredible team there and add that to our Office group."

Now, Ozzie's mission, said Gates, is to drive the company's collaboration and productivity software programs forward.

To read the full transcript of Microsoft's fireside chat, click here.

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