Now that Chris Payne, Microsoft's Corporate VP in charge of Windows Live Search, is on his way out, it's time to start wagering on who will be the winner in the Windows Live/MSN power grab.
It's all rumors and speculation at this point, as the Microsoft PR team is quick to remind me every time I ask for comment on the ongoing Live shuffle. But there's definitely some interesting scuttlebutt out there, regarding the future leadership of the Live team.
Steven Sinofsky is holding firm to his senior vice-presidentship over Windows and Windows Live engineering. Will Steve Berkowitz, senior vice president of Microsoft's online services group -- the former CEO of Ask.com who joined Microsoft last year -- also survive the reorg reverberations? The jury seems to be out on that one.
Who's in the running to take on a bigger role in the new and improved Windows Live/MSN organization? These names keep cropping up:
* Eric Rudder, Senior Vice President of Technical Strategy. Rudder's been lying low, as of late, after moving out of the role of Senior Vice President in charge of servers and tools. For now, he's still reporting directly to Chairman Bill Gates. But sounds like some believe Rudder is champing at the bit for a chance to put his stamp on the Live/MSN products and strategies.
* David Treadwell, Corporate Vice President of Windows Live Core. Treadwell, an 18-year Microsoft veteran, moved to the Live team last July. Before that, he ran the .Net Developer Platform team. And before that, he was a developer on the file server and TCP/IP part of the NT team.
* Brian Arbogast, Corporate Vice President of the Windows Live Developer and Communications Platform. Arbogast currently spearheads "the core technology behind Windows Live communications services, including mail, calendar, contacts, storage, instant messaging, and VoIP functionality, and the core technology behind Microsoft’s online identity services," according to his bio. "He is also responsible for extending Live services to mobile devices and partners with network operators around the world to bring these compelling services to consumers." (Arbogast's corporate bio page was updated on March 2, seemingly to put soon-to-retire Live Corporate VP Blake Irving's responsibilities under his domain.)
* Yusuf Mehdi, Senior Vice President and Chief Advertising Strategist. Fifteeen-year Microsoft veteran Mehdi is unlikely to be named top dog on the marketing side of the Windows Live/MSN side of the house, my tipsters say. But it sounds like he's angling for a new, bigger role. Mehdi previously led the MSN Information Services engineering group and, before that, worldwide sales and marketing for MSN.
Whoever steps up to the plate has a lot of work to do to get the Microsoft Live house in order.