Microsoft: We're Ready For The Post-Gates Era - InformationWeek

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1/18/2008
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Microsoft: We're Ready For The Post-Gates Era

Executive Bob Muglia says leadership at Microsoft remains strong and more than ready for change.

In a two-year time frame after the launch of Windows Vista, Microsoft will have lost some of its most veteran executives to retirement and new career paths, not the least of which is chairman and co-founder Bill Gates, who'll be taking on a more part-time role this July.

But in a series of interviews, long time Microsoft employees tell InformationWeek that the company's more than ready for change.

"These are all great guys and there's no question that all those guys have a lot of institutional knowledge and they've contributed a massive amount to the company," said 20-year Microsoft vet and senior VP Bob Muglia. "But one of the great things about all of them is that they brought that knowledge and gave it to a lot of other people that are still here and are also really engaged."

VP S. Somasegar, an 18-year employee who now runs the company's developer division, said that in some ways, no company could ever replace a founder like Gates who transformed an industry, but argued that because of that dispersal of institutional knowledge, leadership at Microsoft remains strong.

"The company has evolved with a deep set of leaders that we have created a sort of deep strength just below the Bill and [CEO] Steve [Ballmer] level," he said.

Muglia is one of those, a long rising star whose role is among those changing. With the retirement of business division president Jeff Raikes approaching later this year and the hiring of former Macromedia CEO Stephen Elop to take his place, Muglia will be working directly for Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and will become a bit more involved in the corporate side of running Microsoft, while still retaining control over the server and tools business.

"It's just the evolution of a long term, successful company that's going to be successful into the future," said Ted Kummert, Microsoft's VP in charge of SQL Server and a 17-year vet. "What survives is what's the company's about. It's ultimately what we build that makes us successful today."

The list of those who have recently left Microsoft or are now leaving reads like a who's who of vets and top execs: Bill Gates, former co-president of platform and services division Jim Allchin, senior VP of Windows Brian Valentine, VP of Windows Core Mike Short, business division president Jeff Raikes, GM of platform strategy and Gates confidant Charles Fitzgerald, M&A chief Bruce Jaffe, and CIO Stuart Scott.

Plenty of long-time Microsoft employees remain at the company's helm, including Ballmer, Muglia, senior VP and CTO David Vaskevitch, Windows chief Steven Sinofsky and entertainment and devices president Robbie Bach, among others. But there's also a new guard that includes folks like chief software architect Ray Ozzie, COO Kevin Turner, newly hired Raikes replacement Stephen Elop and CIO Tony Scott who are just learning the reins.

Still, some change in direction is inevitable with a shifting leadership, a fact Muglia acknowledged and applauded.

"New ideas are a good thing," he said, citing the company's interoperability agreement with Novell. "That's something that would never have been done years ago, and some of that's from fresh thinking."

Likewise, relatively new talent at the top like chief software architect Ray Ozzie are focused heavily on positioning Microsoft to succeed in the age of the Internet. Whether they'll maintain the pace of success Gates and the other old-timers have set remains to be seen.

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