In what I consider surprising timing, Microsoft announced on January 10 that one of its three corporate presidents, Jeff Raikes, is retiring in September 2008.
Raikes will be succeeded by Stephen Elop, who until today was chief operating officer at Juniper Networks, according to a Microsoft statement. Elop will oversee the Microsoft Business Division, the group Raikes currently leads, which includes the Information Worker (Microsoft Office), Unified Communications and Microsoft Business Solutions (ERP/CRM) groups.
Why do I consider the announcement about Raikes surprising? If I were Microsoft, I wouldn't want a lot of churn during the year that Microsoft Chairman
and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates is discontinuing his day-to-day duties at the company as of July 1. hanging up his CSA hat and remaining Chairman only
(My mistake: Even though Gates still is quite involved in product/strategy decisions, he hasn't been Chief Software Architect on paper since 2006. )
Another reason I consider the Raikes announcement timing odd: Why announce Raikes' departure a day after acknowledging the defection of your mergers and acquisitions chief Bruce Jaffe? You could make the argument that Microsoft wants to get all its defection/churn announcements out of the way at once. But I'm not sure I'd look at things the same way, if I were one of the company's "image makers"....
Microsoft also announced on January 10 that Bob Muglia, the Senior Vice President in charge of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, is going to move out of the Business Division and report directly to CEO Steve Ballmer.
One Microsoft watcher, Robert Helm of Kirkland, Wash.-based Directions on Microsoft, was upbeat about the news. Helm's opinion on the Raikes announcement:
"This is a good time for (Raikes) to move on -- the business is doing well, there's time for the new guy to influence the future direction of Office, and the Bill Gates transition is done. Raikes gets credit for keeping the Office business moving along, diversifying it into servers, and handling Server & Tools (along with Bob Muglia) so that Kevin Johnson could focus on the online strategy.
"The new hire (Elop) seems to have the right background to pull off one of the big strategic efforts in Raikes' business: Positioning Office and SharePoint not just as products that are used out of the box, but as platforms for application development."
Raikes has been emphasizing over the past few months the extent to which Microsoft is betting on unified communications as what will drive the company's business-productivity unit in the coming years. Given that emphasis, the company's decision to go outside in choosing Raikes' successor makes makes more sense.
Microsoft explains Elop's qualifications this way:
"With his experience and record of success at Juniper, Adobe, Macromedia, and other leading companies, Stephen Elop is uniquely qualified to step in for Jeff (Raikes) and lead MBD (Microsoft Business Division). Stephen’s experience spanning collaboration tools, digital media, and most recently, network infrastructure fit extremely well with the charter of the Microsoft Business Division which focuses on the key areas of focus in business solutions and services for productivity, unified communications, and more."
What's your take? Surprised Microsoft went outside for one of its inner circle rather than naming one of Raikes' lieutenants to the role? Or do you think it makes sense for Microsoft to look to a networking powerhouse for a new president?