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Ozzie's leaving the latest sign to break up Microsoft?

It’s been years since the talk to break up Microsoft. When the company was on trial for antitrust violations in 2000, many experts felt that a breakup was just punishment.

But as time went on, many others, from a purely technological or financial standpoint, felt that breaking up was the right thing to do for the Redmond behemoth. Its stock has languished in recent years despite constant growth, and investors worry that as Microsoft cedes more control of your computing environment to Google, Apple and Facebook, its future growth prospects look dim.

They are right, and the future may be now as users in the mobile workforce start demanding more flexible and efficient computing alternatives.

The announcement this week that Ray Ozzie is leaving his post as Microsoft’s chief software architect, plus some illuminating comments by IDC analyst Al Hilwa, makes me think that it’s time to revisit this theory once again.

Microsoft has gotten too big to maneuver with the likes of the Big Three. “Microsoft’s business is probably too diversified to really depend on a single visionary or software architect,” Hilwa told The Microsoft Blog. “And besides, it is hard to operate when almost each division has a president with his own vision for the group.”

The day is certainly past when Microsoft should go the way of Standard Oil or AT&T, and the new power structure in the industry perhaps vindicates the company’s defense of its earlier business practices. It’s also way too late to recapture, for some, the days when the company didn’t have to work hard to attract and keep the best employees, some of whom are saying goodbye in interesting ways.

But it’s not too late for Microsoft to start taking some bold steps and start creating a future in which it can serve its customers and its investors with equal assurance. That includes breaking up or spinning out segments of the company that can flourish with less corporate overhead and more focus.

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