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Changing of guard spells opportunity for Microsoft

With Gates and now Raikes bidding adieu, Microsoft is positioned for new talent not tied to the fat app mentality.

Senior executives like Bill Gates and Jeff Raikes ignited Microsoft's shift from the LAN to the Internet front end. But now, with Gates and business division leader Raikes' retirements imminent, it's time for new blood to step in with its own agenda.

Microsoft has been heading in the direction of building out its network-based applications and services for a few years, with projects like its browser and .NET development, software plus services strategy, and more recently with its bid to buy enterprise search company FAST. And the company's vanguard has also made room for the likes of its current chief software architect Ray Ozzie, who founded Groove Networks and its collaborative Web services vision.

But now, with Gates winding down his day-to-day involvement with the company and Raikes on his way out as well, the signs are clearer than ever that Microsoft's future relies greatly on services that are delivered from the network to just about any device.

"You can see the changes in Microsoft with their efforts with search, advertising and Web services that they get that it's not just about the desktop," said Jonathan Eunice, principal at Illuminata Inc., a Nashua, N.H.-based consulting firm. "They've made incremental add-ons and changes to address this new networked world -- like with SharePoint -- but it's going to take new executives without any sentimental ties to the profitable apps business to move them into this network world."

Microsoft announced Friday that Raikes would retire this September and would be replaced by former Juniper Networks Inc. chief operating office Stephen Elop.

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