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SEATTLE, Oct 18 (Reuters) – The Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ:MSFT) executive who took over the role of chief software architect from Bill Gates is to step down, following a tenure in which the Windows-maker lost ground to Google and Apple.

Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said Ray Ozzie would not be replaced, raising questions about the leadership and direction of the world’s largest software company after a string of high-profile departures.

Ozzie, who spearheaded Microsoft’s move towards providing software and computing power over the Internet — known as "cloud computing" — had achieved what he set out to do, one person close to the executive said, although others questioned whether he had had ever had much impact.

"Ozzie leaving highlights that Microsoft has been kind of lost in the woods ever since Bill Gates left," said Toan Tran, an analyst at Morningstar. "They let Google solve search, they let Apple figure out smartphones, and Apple is in the process of figuring out non-Windows PC devices with the iPad."

He is the latest in a line of Microsoft executives to exit the company in the wake of Gates’ retirement from day-to-day work at the company in 2008, following platforms and services chief Kevin Johnson, Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell, phones and games chief Robbie Bach and Office unit head Stephen Elop.

It cements control of the company’s direction under Ballmer, who said he did not need to replace Ozzie.

"We have a strong planning process, strong technical leaders in each business group and strong innovation heading to the market," said Ballmer in a memo to employees, which Microsoft posted on its website.

Ozzie, 54, who created the groundbreaking Lotus Notes email system early in his career, took on the role of overseeing Microsoft’s software direction in 2006. His role became more visible after Gates’s retirement.