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January 25, 2007

Ray Ozzie attracts WebSphere guru to Redmond

Microsoft has hired Don Ferguson - the so-called 'father of WebSphere' and former chief architect at IBM's Software Group - to work with another ex-IBMer and 'heir apparent,' Ray Ozzie, in the office of the CTO. While this news might not be headline-grabbing, it is noteworthy in the context of other hires Microsoft has made while Mr Ozzie has been with the company.

By CBR Staff Writer

Don Ferguson is no stranger to Microsoft, as he worked alongside cmponent object model (COM) and simple object access protocol (SOAP) pioneer Don Box in the early days of web services while he was at IBM. However, his move to Redmond comes at a critical time for IBM and Microsoft, as both companies seek to transition many of their existing product lines to the new world of web services, and to contend with competition from start-ups and the likes of Google and Yahoo!

In finding a replacement for Bill Gates, the Microsoft Board has selected an individual well known for his team-building abilities – an attribute not readily associated with his predecessor. The team Ray Ozzie is pulling together over in Redmond lists an impressive array of individuals from his time at Iris Associates/Lotus/IBM and Groove Networks, and covers a range of areas from user interface (UI) design, web services interfaces, and security.

While one should not come away with the idea that IBM is hemorrhaging key staff to Microsoft, it seems fair to say that a number of very talented people are finding their way onto the Microsoft payroll, and so it appears that the ‘new broom’ is introducing a few new faces in order to introduce some fresh ideas – and about time too.

Julio Estrada, architect of the Lotus Domino Web Server and Lotus QuickPlace, joined Microsoft after setting up Kubi Software – originally a new kind of collaborative email product. His blog describes the project he is working on at Microsoft as a new consumer offering that spans the end-to-end user experience from client software to web services to hardware – not giving much away there then, but his may be yet another ‘Live’ service, one assumes.

Bob Congdon – former IBM Workplace specialist and employee at Iris Associates (the company founded by Mr Ozzie in 1984 to develop what eventually became Lotus Notes) – is now a member of the group that just shipped Exchange 2007, and is described by those who know him as scary smart. Mr Congdon’s blog introduces some very interesting ideas about how SharePoint and Domino might work together, and hopefully we will get to see some of these ideas put into action this year as Microsoft rolls out SharePoint Server 2007 and IBM ramps up the web services features in Domino.

Other names include Gary Devendorf, another Lotus-Notes/Domino-guru-turned-Microsoft-technical-evangelist, and Charlie Kaufman, chief security architect for Lotus Notes/Domino and now looking after the security of Microsoft’s Common Language Runtime. Both have strong reputations in the Notes/Domino community, and so we might see a few bridges being built between the hitherto rival camps of Lotus/IBM and Microsoft – let’s hope so.

Back in March 2005, it appeared that Microsoft had hit the jackpot with the acquisition of Groove Networks, as not only did the company acquire a ready-made P2P platform to sit alongside its Office products, but it also got Mr Ozzie – a legendary figure in the software industry. One thing is for sure: Microsoft’s new messiah might not have the ‘presence’ of Bill Gates, but his magnetism is pulling together a group of impressive disciples.

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