It's hard to imagine how a guy this self-effacing could survive inside Microsoft's insular, hierarchical, hypercompetitive culture. Redmond is notorious for bringing outsiders into the executive ranks and promptly shredding them. But since joining the company 18 months ago, Ozzie's star has only gotten brighter. He was brought on as one of three chief technical officers, and less than two months into his tenure, he was leading a secret strategy session on how to fight competitors like Google. By November, he was the architect of a new software development strategy for the entire company. And in June of this year, he reached the mountaintop: Gates announced that he was essentially retiring and named Ozzie as the company's technology überboss.