The Wall Street Journal has the scoop today on a big shakeup in Microsoft’s consumer products division — the Entertainment and Device Division — which produces mobile phone technology, the Xbox, videogames, and other devices. Senior Microsoft executives J Allard and Robbie Bach will be leaving Microsoft.
ZDnet originally reported that J Allard, a consumer technology design guru, would be leaving. That has been confirmed on the Microsoft Website where it says that he has “retired.” His official title was Chief Experience officer and CTO of the Entertainment and Devices division.
Allard was a 15-year veteran at Microsoft, first heralding the influence the company could have on the Internet and heavily influencing Microsoft’s moves into Internet technology such as the Web browser. Later he oversaw the Zune music device and the Xbox as head of the division. Here it’s evident that Microsoft has struggled to make significant headway against consumer technology arch-rival Apple. Case in point: The Zune, which never really made it big. The Xbox has fared better, but only after years and years of work and billions of dollars of investment.
Robbie Bach, President of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices division, will also “retire.” Bach was with Microsoft since 1988, where he led the marketing efforts for Microsoft Office from 1992 to 1997 and managed the global launches of Xbox and Xbox 360.
CNET reports that in a memo to Microsoft employees, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer wrote: “Transitions are always hard. Robbie has been an instrumental part of so many key moments in Microsoft history–from the evolution of Office to the decision to create the first Xbox to pushing the company hard in entertainment overall. J as well has had a great impact in the market and on our culture, providing leadership in design, and in creating a passionate and involved Xbox community, and earlier being at the center of our work seizing the importance of the Web for the company.”
The lowdown is that there is a massive change ahead for Microsoft in consumer products, and it’s pretty clear the company is feeling the heat of competition from Apple, which continues to do a better job at capturing the imagination of consumers with product launches such as the iPhone and the iPad.
If you think about it, Microsoft really hasn’t made much headway in its high-profile consumer products launches, except perhaps with Xbox. Can you remember the last time you saw somebody with a Zune? It’s clear the company is going to attempt to re-energize these efforts. How it will do this isn’t yet clear.