For a lifetime of work in collaborative software and software entrepreneurship
Has texting changed your life? You can trace it back to a system Raymond Ozzie used in college that led him to devote his life to connecting people with computers. Ozzie is an American entrepreneur and technologist who has been part of the personal computer industry since its inception in the late 1970s. His belief in providing access to everyone was inspired by his interactions with a programmer he met in college who used a mouth wand to type into the university’s PLATO computer-assisted instruction system.
PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations) was a leading-edge computing environment for education created at the University of Illinois in the early 1960s. By the early 1970s it was also evolving into an early online community with many visionary capabilities. These included direct real-time chat, email, and group mailing lists. This early experience would shape Ozzie’s life work.
Graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1979 with a BS in computer science, Ozzie began working at minicomputer maker Data General but soon moved over to Software Arts, where he worked for cofounders Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston on VisiCalc, the legendary spreadsheet package, and TK Solver, which allowed engineers and scientists to solve equations quickly and powerfully.
In 1983, he was invited to develop productivity tools for the workplace by Mitch Kapor and Jonathan Sachs at a new company, Lotus Development, where he led a small team to create Lotus Symphony, one of the first office suites—containing a word processor, spreadsheet, database and graphing utility.
The next year, Ozzie left Lotus and founded Iris Associates to create a system for communications and collaboration using networked Personal Computers, inspired by his experiences with messaging platform PLATO Notes as a student. Iris’s software grew to become known as Lotus Notes, the defining enterprise “groupware” and email product ultimately used by more than 150 million people within large enterprises and corporations worldwide. Iris was purchased by Lotus Development in 1994, which was then purchased by IBM in 1995.
In 1997, Ozzie founded Groove Networks to improve upon existing collaboration tools by creating peer-to-peer, end-to-end secure system for mobile business team collaboration. Groove was acquired by Microsoft in 2005, and the next year Ozzie took over the role of chief software architect from cofounder Bill Gates.
While at Microsoft, Ozzie led the company’s direction into new areas, including the Azure cloud service. He departed from Microsoft in 2011 and was soon part of the founding team at Safecast, a nonprofit global environmental monitoring effort organized in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
In January 2012, Ozzie started Talko, a company making mobile apps and services for voice-centric business group communications. “Talko” was meant as an homage to the PLATO system’s “Talkomatic” group chat program in the 1970s. Ray sold Talko to Microsoft in December 2015.
In 2018, he founded Blues Wireless to develop integrated hardware, software, and services to easily, securely, and inexpensively enable IoT devices to take advantage of the global cellular infrastructure.
Since 2013, Ozzie serves on the board of directors of Hewlett Packard Enterprise and on the technical advisory board of AT&T. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.