Microsoft picks engineering head DelBene for top Office job; Lees promoted in mobile division

Friday, October 1, 2010

Microsoft taps tech leader to head Office division

SEATTLE — Microsoft Corp. has picked an insider with engineering expertise to head up its Office software division, filling a spot left vacant in September when the most recent president left to become Nokia Corp.’s CEO.

Kurt DelBene, an 18-year Microsoft veteran, was named president of the Microsoft Office division. Most recently, DelBene, 50, led engineering and development for the division that includes the Office desktop programs, SharePoint and the Exchange e-mail system.

DelBene’s role will be slightly narrower than that of his predecessor, Stephen Elop. It won’t include oversight of Microsoft’s business solutions group, which makes financial, supply chain and customer relationship management software. That group will be led by Kirill Tatarinov; both he and DelBene will report directly to CEO Steve Ballmer.

Chris Capossela, DelBene’s peer and a senior marketing and product management executive in the Office group, was also seen as a candidate. He will now report to DelBene.

Matt Rosoff, an analyst for the independent research group Directions on Microsoft, said part of Microsoft’s motivation for the appointment is to make sure it has technical people in leadership positions.

“Internally, Microsoft gets criticism from some employees saying there are too many marketing people in high positions,” Rosoff said in an interview. Both Ballmer and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner come from sales and marketing backgrounds.

Microsoft is also promoting Andy Lees to president of Microsoft’s phone business and Don Mattrick to president of the group that includes the Xbox game console, the Zune media player and Internet television technology.

Both were senior vice presidents of their respective groups.

The Windows Phone and Xbox efforts were under one umbrella until this spring, when Robbie Bach, the president of the division, retired.

Microsoft’s Xbox group is doing well, with strong console sales and the much-anticipated release of Kinect, a new motion-detecting controller that makes a joystick-style controller unnecessary.

But critics wonder whether Windows Phone 7, Microsoft’s attempt to compete with Apple Inc.’s iPhone and Google Inc.’s Android phone system, is coming too late.

Lees’ promotion indicates Microsoft isn’t planning any big changes in the phone group until it sees how the new system is received in the market, Rosoff said.

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