updated 08:05 pm EDT, Tue May 24, 2011
UMPC and Xbox maker Otto Berkes quits Microsoft
Microsoft was dealt a symbolic hit Tuesday after new word that one of its most unconventional device designers, Otto Berkes, has left the company. The veteran of the ultramobile PC (UMPC) and Xbox teams resigned this afternoon. His final destination wasn't known, but he told the Seattle Times he was leaving for a firm "outside the Seattle area."
Berkes is best known for being one of the four people instrumental to starting up the Xbox, one of the few projects outside of Windows and Office to get success at Microsoft. Along with J Allard, Ed Fries, and Ted Hase, he helped persuade a normally reluctant Microsoft to develop the first Xbox. It went from being a distant competitor when launching in 2001 to being the dominant console platform for 10 of the past 12 months.
The now departing staffer, who was last working on datacenter hardware for Bing, may have also given Microsoft one of its earliest shots at preempting the iPad. He helped develop the first prototypes of UMPCs, which CEO Bill Gates held up as early as 2005, as well as the related Origami project. Microsoft eventually gave up as the five- to seven-inch computers, which usually ran ULV Intel chips and either Linux or Windows XP, didn't catch on.
One of the more recent impetuses may have been the death of the Courier tablet that Berkes also helped develop. Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer is rumored to have personally cancelled it despite months of development and high expectations. A final chapter in the dual-screen slate's courier ended just days ago with the closure of Pioneer Studios wing responsible for much of its development.
Berkes in leaving did say his work may have helped Microsoft break out of its focus on traditional PCs. "One of the outcomes of that effort was a change in thinking around Windows and the PC and touch interfaces and hardware evolution," he said.