updated 01:50 pm EDT, Fri May 21, 2010
Famed Xbox head leaving MS over dual touch tablet
Microsoft's decision to kill the Courier tablet may have cost it one of its best-known employees, an investigation found this week. Chief Technical Officer J Allard, who went to the side project Alchemy Ventures after heading up the Xbox and later Zune teams, is believed to have gone on "sabbatical" but now may never come back. He was allegedly already uncertain about the company but decided to leave after Courier was axed before it was even made public.
Another source for ZDNet claimed that it may have been a personal disagreement between Allard and CEO Steve Ballmer over the potential for success of Courier. Officially, Microsoft hasn't confirmed the departure and still lists Allard as an employee, but corporate gaming and Xbox VP Todd Holmdahl may have had his role changed to cover startup projects.
An exit would be a significant loss for Microsoft, which has seen much of its recognizable talent either retire or jump ship to major competitors like Google. Allard is known for having turned the Xbox from a tentative project at Microsoft into a close competitor of Nintendo and Sony. Courier would have been unique in the tablet world but may have sparked rivalry in other teams who wanted their software to succeed.
"Allard was a key guy on Xbox and organizationally he was set up to drive innovations like Courier," an anonymous insider said. "He was one of the few there that really was willing to think outside the box and has people working on top secret projects off the main campus... He was regarded as being a bit (Apple CEO Steve) Jobs like in that he understood the importance of design, not just function. Hence if he departs Microsoft would lose an important design advocate and innovator."