updated 05:00 pm EST, Mon December 12, 2011
Microsoft moves Windows Phone lead to special work
Microsoft's Windows Phone leader Andy Lees is being moved out of his existing role to work on a special cross-platform project, a leaked memo uncovered Monday. CEO Steve Ballmer told staff that Lees was working on a special project for next year that ZDNet understood would involve Microsoft support across PCs, phones, and tablets. The exact details weren't uncovered other than that Windows 8 and Windows Phone would be the key ingredients.
"I have asked Andy Lees to move to a new role working for me on a time-critical opportunity focused on driving maximum impact in 2012 with Windows Phone and Windows 8," Ballmer said in the note.
The executive cast Lees' shift as a step up, crediting him with having rebooted Microsoft's mobile strategy. Terry Myerson, a key engineer in the Windows Phone team, would take over the Windows Phone leadership spot.
Lees' shift might be to focus on unifiying Windows and Windows Phone at least partially once Windows Phone 8 arrives. Rumors have suggested that the future mobile OS, codenamed Apollo, would start sharing at least some common roots with Windows 8 and let apps written using the Metro interface run on phones if optimized properly. Microsoft has spent much of the past two years working towards creating a more integrated layout that has become clearer with Windows Phone, the Xbox 360 Dashboard, and later Windows 8 all now going for a similar interface and integrating their services between each other.
In theory, the plan would hedge against incursions by Apple and Google by making the Windows desktop, tablet, and phone experiences inseparable in the public eye. Much of it is based on the assumption that the Windows name still carries enough weight to reverse years of gains from the iPhone, Android, and more recently the iPad.
The exit could still represent an intent to shake up a mobile OS that even Ballmer has done poorly so far, as well as Lees' controversial status. Along with Windows Phone 7 doing little to stop Microsoft's sinking market share, Lees has been widely accused of sabotaging the Kin by refusing to accept a code base that wasn't based on Windows CE. The decision was likely responsible for a fatal delay that saw the Kin line arrive far too late and lose a vital plan discount from Verizon.