Microsoft Loses Three to the Competition

Microsoft has recently lost a few key engineers and marketers to social networking and gaming companies. While turnover is expected, Microsoft lost three solid citizens of its empire.

Microsoft has recently lost a few key engineers and marketers to newer search, social networking and gaming companies.

Chris Wilson and Douglas Purdy were Microsoft architects who have left Microsoft to head to Google and Facebook, respectively. And Anand Iyer, a former senior product manager at Microsoft whose primary job seemed to be to serve as a liaison between Microsoft and startups in Silicon Valley, said he is leaving Microsoft to likely join a gaming company.

Wilson was a platform architect of the Internet Explorer platform team at Microsoft, and ex-group program manager. He represented Microsoft on several Web-related standards bodies. He has left Microsoft to join Google at its Seattle offices in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle.

In a blog post about his departure, Wilson said: "I'm very excited to work for a company that invests so much in making the Web platform better for developers and consumers, and I hope that I can use this as an opportunity to not only do no evil, but to actively do good." Wilson was obviously referring to Google's so-called tagline of "Do No Evil."

Wilson began working on Web browsers in 1993 when he co-authored the first Windows versions of NCSA Mosaic, the first mass-market WWW browser. After leaving NCSA in 1994 and spending a year working on the Web browser for SPRY, Wilson joined Microsoft's Internet Explorer team as a developer in 1995. Wilson has participated in many standards working groups, in particular helping develop standards for CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), HTML, the DOM (Document Object) and XSL through the W3C working groups. He also developed the first implementations of CSS in Internet Explorer.

Meanwhile, Iyer is leaving the software giant to possibly work for a mobile gaming company. However, it seems Iyer's leaving is more related to two things. One is that, in the Valley, at least, Microsoft is no longer viewed as innovative. And the other is that he was being pressured to move to work out of Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash.

"I had a candid conversation with my management," Iyer said in a blog post. "I was told that while I was doing well (paraphrasing ;) in order to move ahead in my career, I needed to move to Redmond - it was a matter of -when'. I would have to give up my home, my family, my friends and move from one of the best cities in the world to, well, Redmond."

It is kind of hard to be Microsoft's evangelist to Silicon Valley if you have to work in Redmond.

In his post, Iyer reminisces: "I started in January 2005 as a Developer Evangelist based in the Valley - my job was to 'sell' developers on the idea of .NET. One of my first assignments was Visual Studio 2005 and Team System (this was Microsoft's foray into the ALM - Application Lifecycle Management -- space)."

Iyer then talks about evangelizing Windows Vista, Silverlight, Windows Azure, open source, interoperability, the company's BizSpark program for startups, and for the last 15 months Windows Phone 7, as a product manager on that technology's developer platform.

However, at a startup-focused event sponsored by PayPal, where the topic of innovation came up, Iyer saw how much of an uphill battle he faced. "Later on, the audience was polled to see who they thought was a company that bred innovation, like PayPal did, and the options were: Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Apple," he said in his post. "No mention of Microsoft. (FYI, Facebook won that poll)."

So, pressured to move, Iyer said he decided to leave Microsoft instead. "I'm sad but I know this is absolutely the right thing for me to do," he said. "I've met the most amazing, most diverse and by far the most intelligent group of people over the last few years. The opportunities that Microsoft has helped create for me are truly unbelievable and I will be forever grateful. Everyone I've met and dealt with has and will continue to have a profoundly significant influence on my life."

Ironically, location played a bit in both Iyer's and Wilson's decision to move on. Though Microsoft has one of the most varied and talented work forces in the business, the company has had trouble getting many employees to move to and then stay in the Redmond/Seattle area. Said Wilson: "I'll spare the minor details of my decision (other than how excited I am to turn my Office-Space-style commute into a 6 mile bike ride to Google's Fremont office)..."

Meanwhile, Microsoft's decision to kill or severely hamper its Oslo tools effort hastened former Microsoft software architect Douglas Purdy to leave early in September. The project codenamed Oslo was a set of future Microsoft modeling technologies that aim to provide significant productivity gains across the lifecycle of .NET Framework applications by enabling developers, architects and IT professionals to work together more effectively.

Although Purdy does not come out and say the dismantling of Oslo affected his decision, of his move to Facebook, sources at Microsoft said it did. In a blog post, Purdy said: "Today is my first day at Facebook. During my conversations with the leadership there, it was clear that Facebook is committed to becoming an essential platform for developers, helping them to be successful through open-source tools, frameworks and, of course, Web APIs. Further, the Facebook vision around the Graph API and Open Graph Protocol (which debuted at f8 this spring) is the closest thing to what I call the -Infobus' I have yet seen; convincing me that Facebook was one of the most leveraged places for me."