After 21 years, Charlie Kindel is leaving Microsoft.
If you don’t recognize the name, you certainly should be familiar with some of the products he’s worked on. There was Internet Explorer 3.0, in 1996, and the ActiveX technologies that became a security headache for Microsoft years later. Kindel worked on the home networking features in Windows XP, and then founded Microsoft’s eHome division and shipped the first version of Windows Media Center nearly a decade ago. He was the driving force behind Windows Home Server, turning a “skunk works” project into a cult classic.
For the past two years, Kindel has been in charge of the design and development of the Windows Phone 7 Application Platform and one of its most forceful advocates. In a July 2010 interview, he acknowledged how far behind Microsoft had fallen in the mobile space:
“Windows Phone is not an end game. It’s more of a means,” said Kindel. … “The installed market is not very big, so we have to show [developers] how much we’re investing to create a phenomenal user experience. We have to show marketing and engineering seriousness.”
That initial effort seems to have paid off, with more than 27,000 apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace today.
Microsoft watchers noted that Kindel had taken a dramatically reduced role on Windows Phone matters in recent months. In an interview with GeekWire earlier today, Kindel told Todd Bishop he had “stepped away from day to day Windows Phone work earlier this year.” He leaves Microsoft to work on a stealth startup. In a post on his personal blog, Kindel teased that the new venture “has to do with sports, advertising, mobile, social-networking, and, of course, the cloud.”
It’s an easy temptation to pin a ready-made narrative on the departure of someone who has essentially been a Microsoft lifer. One of those narratives is that a high-level exec is bailing on a floundering mobile platform. In his farewell letter, Kindel tried to tackle that one directly:
To the Windows Phone team: I may stop using some Microsoft products now that I’m out of here. But not Windows Phone. The BEST product Microsoft has ever built. Do not let up!
Kindel’s blog post announcing his departure was overwhelmed with traffic this morning, and the server crashed almost immediately. This time, at least, the culprit wasn’t a Microsoft product but a WordPress installation running on, of all things, a Linux server.
A lot has changed in 21 years.