A shake-up in the management and responsibilities of some of Microsoft Corp.s key Windows client and server team executives could be in the cards when Jim Allchin, the co-president of Microsofts Platforms, Products and Services division, retires at the end of the year.
While Allchin stressed in an interview with eWEEK that no decisions had been made in this regard, he did float the possibility of some significant staff changes at that time.
“One of the things we have the opportunity to do now is step back and look across the whole future that we are trying to create and say, Where can we apply that talent best?
“All these people can be used in so many different ways. But we are, right now, focused on trying to ship this product [Windows Vista],” he said when asked about possible changes.
Allchin also said that he and co-president Kevin Johnson, who will take over as president of Microsofts Platforms, Products and Services Division upon his retirement, were currently operating jointly.
While they spent a lot of time together when then they were first appointed co-presidents last year, they are now working largely separately, but they have stayed in constant touch and have continually kept one another apprised of what they were doing at any given point in time.
“We are in the middle of a transition, obviously, and Kevin is taking responsibility for more of the business functions that are going on. So, he is setting up the revenue for fiscal year 2007 and the planning of expenses,” Allchin said.
Johnson is spending the majority of his time also, from a product group level, with the Windows Live and MSN teams. “He is also responsible for setting up organizational changes for the future,” Allchin said.
For his part, Allchin is spending his time, first and foremost, on Windows Vista, and secondly on overall technology, pushing ahead on a set of core technologies that Microsoft needs beyond Windows Vista, as well as on the overall strategy “for things, like anything in the legal space, as I unfortunately have such a deep background in that area. But you should understand that we are operating as a complete pair right now and over time he [Johnson] will pick up even more,” he said.
Asked if Johnsons appointment was a deliberate move away from having a technical person in charge [Allchin] to a more business, sales and marketing focused leader [Johnson], Allchin said that, in his opinion, Johnson “is just a great leader, and that is why I was so excited to be able to work with him.”
Before assuming his present position last September, Johnson served as group vice president of Microsofts worldwide sales, marketing and services organization, where he led 30,000 employees, including field sales and marketing professionals.
He also oversaw corporate operations and IT functions that supported the work of Microsofts 60,000 employees around the world.
Johnson also serves on the Senior Leadership Team that sets overall strategy and direction for Microsoft.
“As we move ahead, many of the challenges we face will be tricky business model tradeoffs, and leading large organizations down particular paths, and Kevin is such a great guy at doing that. So Im thrilled to have the opportunity to work with him, and I think he will be an outstanding leading for this organization,” Allchin said.
On the question of whether the plan at Microsoft was to have Johnson assume a more technological role down the line, Allchin said that under the current plan, “we will surround him with technologists, very strong. I dont know how you think about Bob Muglia [Microsofts senior vice president of Server and Tools], but I think of him as this awesome guy who can bridge the business and technical and any other worlds. I think of Kevin in that same light,” he said.
Although Microsofts management could have made several choices as a replacement for him, Allchin said he had strong views on what type of leader would be necessary, and “I think as time goes on that Kevin can make those tradeoffs. He listens, he does deep analysis, and he can actually make the tradeoffs because he will get the pros and the cons and then make a decision, and then people will also feel good about it.”
It was also just too early to say if the role of some of the current executives with a deep technical knowledge of Windows, like Brian Valentine, the senior vice president for the Windows Core Operating System Division, would change.
“Everybody is focused on getting Windows Vista done right now, or on getting the next Windows Live feature out. We are talking about how the future organization should look, but it is too premature to hazard a guess,” he said.
And, while Valentine had a broad and deep technical knowledge of Windows that would be useful to Johnson in the role he assumes once Allchin retires, “to be clear, that deep technological knowledge can be used in a lot of places,” Allchin said.