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Two key Microsoft execs retiring early

Microsoft is losing the father of the Xbox and one of its most tenured pitchmen.

I don't usually cover personnel changes here, but the just-announced retirements of J. Allard and Robbie Bach count as significant news -- and not the welcome kind for a company that hasn't had the best year.

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Allard, "chief experience officer" and chief technology officer for Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices division, earned his claim to fame by overseeing the Xbox and, later, turning his attention to the Zune media player. And while the Zune has spent most of its life overshadowed by Apple's iPod, the Xbox and the later Xbox 360 have made an sizable dent in the video-game industry. The two consoles sent Sega packing and gave Microsoft a valuable foothold in the digital-media business.

As president of Entertainment and Devices -- one of the parts of Microsoft least tied to its traditional Windows business -- Bach has helped sell Allard's work after having done the same earlier for such core products as Microsoft Office. Bach has also been a fixture at the company's Consumer Electronics Show keynotes and other public product launches, often spending nearly as much time on stage as chief executive Steve Ballmer.

Microsoft's press release puts a positive spin on the upcoming retirements of the two, both set for this fall. It quotes Bach as saying "I'm at the time in my life where I want to dedicate more time to my family and my nonprofit work, including my work with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America"; Allard, meanwhile, will become "an advisor in a strategic role for Ballmer and his leadership team."

In their place, Don Mattrick, a senior vice president, will run Microsoft's interactive-entertainment business, and Andy Lees, another senior vice president, will lead its mobile-communications work. See veteran Microsoft reporter Todd Bishop's writeup for more details on the company's succession plans.

Have I mentioned that Bach is 48 and Allard is only 41? People do tend to retire early at tech companies, but still. . .

Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw said the two departures weren't coordinated or requested. Both Bach and Allard, with major projects wrapping up, simply wanted to do other things with their lives at this point. I can believe that, having heard Bach talk about his charity work.

But as Ballmer wrote in a company-wide e-mail announcing the news, "Transitions are always hard." (We've had a few changes in management here at The Post, as you may have read.) They can distract and confuse workers -- especially if they lead to a broader shakeup, as some reports suggest is in store for Entertainment and Devices.

And at this point, Microsoft -- with its mobile efforts split among multiple platforms even before the upcoming launch of its rewritten Windows Phone 7 software -- doesn't look like a company that needs more distractions.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  May 25, 2010; 1:11 PM ET
Categories:  Gadgets , Mobile , Windows  
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Comments

Microsoft is sliding into irrelevance, and if you cannot innovate, use lawyers to intimidate.

What they need most now is to appoint a Chief Intimidation Officer.

Posted by: VernonHell | May 26, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

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