What does this mean for the technology industry?
Microsoft’s Entertainment Division President Robbie Bach, 48,along with the division’s Chief Technology Officer and "Chief Experience Officer" J Allard, 41,are leaving Microsoft. Rumors continue to abound about why Microsoft is leaving one of its five major divisions without leadership.
Why Did They Really Leave?
The Wall Street Journal reported that Allard is leaving because of Microsoft’s decision to shut down the Courier project, a tablet PC initiative he was spearheading. A leaked e-mail shows Allard’s conversation with his fellow employees. It reads:
"In response to the curiosity, no chairs were thrown, no ultimatums served, I am not moving to Cupertino or Mountain View, I did not take a courier job and I require no assistance finding the door."
Speculation on Bach’s departure surrounds the division’s profitability: $176 million on $7.6 billion of revenue. That puts a spotlight on Microsoft’s lack of success against Apple and Research in Motion in the entertainment and mobile worlds, respectively.
Implications of the Shake Up
The departures of Bach and Allard could have severe implications for Microsoft. Bach and Allard are key players behind the Xbox 360, Zune, Project Natal, and the dead Courier project-essentially all of Microsoft’s hit entertainment projects from the last decade.
These resignations are strange indeed, especially as Redmond wars with both Google and Apple on the increasingly competitive digital entertainment and mobile battlefields. The departure of Bach and Allard, two key executives, at such a critical time is akin to a country replacing experienced generals on the even of a major skirmish.
With Bach and Allard gone, the Entertainment and Mobile divisions will report to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer directly. Ballmer is known for making sweeping changes to division leadership when he is unhappy about performance.
The big question now is who will replace Bach and Allard? And will they have the experience and savvy to turn around these divisions to Ballmer’s-and the market’s-satisfaction? I’m sure the hunt for talent is on.
Tech Industry Poaches Microsoft Ranks
Even before the shake up at Microsoft, the technology industry had its sights set on Redmond’s talent pool. Salesforce.com, Yahoo and AOL have done some cherry picking this spring as they set out to beef up their own executive ranks.
Salesforce.com Appoints Latino Woman to Exec Ranks
In another diversity move, Maria Martinez was appointed as Executive Vice President of Customers for Life, the company’s organization devoted to ensuring the success and longevity of its customer base. Martinez joins salesforce.com after an esteemed career that most recently included six years of strategic leadership roles at Microsoft and Motorola. Specifically, Martinez managed Microsoft’s global services business, including professional services and customer support for all products. During her tenure, Martinez led the business to outperform revenue targets and to significantly increase Microsoft’s customer satisfaction rating.
Yahoo appointed Blake Irving, 50, as its Chief Product Officer. He will lead the company’s products organization, which is responsible for the vision, strategy, design and development of Yahoo's global consumer and advertiser product portfolio. Irving was most recently a professor at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management in Malibu, Calif. In his prior role as corporate vice president of the Windows Live Platform group, Irving led a team of 4,000 to build and operate Microsoft’s Internet-scale services platform, advertiser and developer ecosystem. Irving also held a variety of development and general manager positions at Microsoft.
AOL named Alexander Gounares, 37, as its CTO. Gounares joined AOL from Microsoft, where he was Corporate Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for the company's Online Services Division. During his tenure at Microsoft, Gounares led significant strategic and technical operations for some of the company's most important projects including Microsoft's global advertising platform, Bing search, MSN and Microsoft Virtual Earth. Gounares also served for three years as Technology Advisor to Microsoft Chairman and founder Bill Gates, as well as Corporate Vice President of Corporate Strategy in Microsoft's Finance Department.