This week in Microsoft

As summer heats up, the game of musical chairs at Microsoft is heating up as well.

As summer heats up, the game of musical chairs at Microsoft is heating up as well.

In the wake of last week's announcement that Bill Gates will move away from his role as Microsoft's chief software architect, Martin Taylor, a key adviser to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, abruptly left the software maker. Taylor, a 13-year company veteran who led Microsoft's "Get the Facts" anti-Linux crusade for several years, was named in March as a corporate vice president overseeing the marketing push for Windows Live services.

Highlighting the abruptness of the departure, reports noted that Taylor had been quoted Monday in a press release announcing Windows Live Messenger, the new version of Microsoft's instant messaging software.

The departure comes after the company chose Ray Ozzie to fill the chief software architect role, and Craig Mundie to assume responsibility for research and policy matters. Microsoft also has a new internal online system aimed at tapping a broader pool of top minds to craft the company's technology strategy. All that raises the question of whether there will be too many chefs in Microsoft's kitchen.

By his nature and because of who he is, Gates has been the ultimate arbiter for technical debates at Microsoft. There is also the question of just how much ground Gates will cede to his handpicked successors. Longtime Gates associates doubt that the tech icon will step too far back.

CNET readers seemed to welcome the change, saying it was overdue.

"I believe less is more," to the TalkBack forum, tongue in cheek. "Let a few fellows really rip Vista apart, and maybe get a good OS. Sorry, I was being foolishly optimistic. My bad."

The company is also aiming to further democratize its technical leadership. A key part of that is a new internal communications system designed to allow workers to spitball ideas on where the company should be headed, CNET has learned.

In an interview, Gates said that the system, known as Quests, is still in the early stages of development. Still, it "gets us to be really specific about the future of the home, the future of the office, the future of the data center," Gates said.

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