As the Microsoft Windows Phone org churns

As the Microsoft Windows Phone org churns

Summary: Matt Bencke, General Manager for Windows Phone Developer and Marketplace, has left the Windows Phone team to go to Xbox Live.


Another leader in Microsoft's Windows Phone unit has left.

Matt Bencke, General Manager for Developer and Marketplace, quietly moved from the Windows Phone org to Xbox Live, a move announced internally at the end of November 2011, according to my contacts. Bencke's move preceded the replacement of Windows Phone President Andy Lees with Corporate Vice President of Windows Phone engineering, Terry Myerson, by a couple of weeks.

(I've asked Microsoft for comment on Bencke's move. No word so far. But I've heard this from enough of my contacts that I consider it worth a report.)

Bencke had been in the Developer GM role since November 2010, according to his LinkedIn profile (which has not yet been updated to note his new Xbox job title). He was a part of the team that worked on the Microsoft-Nokia partnership. Before his latest job, he had been a General Manager on Premium Mobile Experiences (a k a, the team responsible for the ill-fated Kin).

There are a number of theories flying as to what all the recent churn means for Windows Phone. Microsoft is strongly believed to be making changes on the engineering side of the platform, substituting components of Windows (in the form of MinWin, possibly) for the Embedded Compact guts currently at the heart of the Windows Phone operating system. Microsoft could make that change as soon as mid-to-fall 2012 with its "Apollo" Windows Phone OS release, sources close to the company have said.

But Lees' and Bencke's moves may be more about marketing than about technology. Some are speculating (again) that Microsoft may be preparing to move the Windows Phone team under Windows. I've heard related rumors (just talk and rumors, folks!) that Windows Phone marketing -- not all of Windows Phone -- could end up under Windows marketing as part of this shift. So far, Microsoft execs haven't said when and/or whether the Windows Phone Marketplace and Windows 8 Store will merge, but some of my contacts are expecting this to happen sooner rather than later.

For the record, Microsoft officials continue to decline to comment on anything to do with "Apollo" or anything about the reasons for Myerson's replacement of Lees -- who has a new mystery role that involves both Windows 8 and Windows Phone and should come to light in 2012, the Softies have said.

Lees and Bencke are just a couple of the Windows Phone leaders that have moved onto other positions this year. In early November, Achim Berg, the former head of Windows Phone Marketing, became the Corporate Vice President of operator channels at Microsoft, "responsible for driving close collaboration with operator, hoster, cable and media partners," the Microsoft press site bio on him says. Microsoft has not replaced Berg.

In August, 21-year Microsoft veteran Charlie Kindel -- who served most recently as general manager of the Windows Phone Developer Ecosystem -- left to form a startup. (Microsoft officials had touted Bencke as Kindel's replacement.) General Manager of Windows Phone Product Management Stephanie Ferguson was replaced by Gavin Kim. Kim, the former VP of Consumer and Enterprise Services at Samsung is now General Manager of Windows Phone Product Management.

Microsoft currently has more than 45,000 apps in the Windows Phone marketplace.

As I've blogged and said repeatedly this year, I am a Windows Phone fan. (Yep, I'm one of the 1.5 percent.) I really hope Microsoft doesn't relegate WP to nothing but a complement to Windows, in terms of its positioning and marketing. But if Microsoft and partners can't grow Windows Phone share in a very substantial way in the next few months, maybe this is Plan B... (?)

Topics: Mobility, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • RE: As the Microsoft Windows Phone org churns

    I keep an eye on the WP job postings; they're still recruiting for significant dev & PM positions at a level that suggests continuing investment where they actually do the work of building rather than strategizing. Maybe Brandon is getting a promotion? ;-)
    • RE: As the Microsoft Windows Phone org churns

      @mary.branscombe <br><br>They need to run an ad where two guys are in the airport, and one has a Windows Phone & one has an iPhone. The Windows Phone has tiles that are flipping & updating & doing all kinds of cool stuff... & the iPhone guy notices & keeps asks questions like: <br><br>How'd you make your iPhone do that? (A: It's not an iPhone). <br>Oh, is it Android? I heard those are complicated. (No. It's a Windows Phone.) <br>Is there an app for that? (No. There's a phone for that. See.)<br>Then the British Airways app notifies Windows guy that his flight is ready, so Windows guy says: "Well, gotta go. My flight's here."
      And then the iPhone guy sits there a few seconds & then the airline desk announces the flight has arrived. And says, "Oh, that's my flight... too." (The Windows guy is already in line).<br><br>Tagline: Windows Phone. You don't need a million apps. Just the right phone.
      • People don't buy buy phones for that kind of reasoning

        @metromalenyc ... People buy iPhones because they like Apple products, their design, their just-works-ness, and Apple generally.

        People buy other-than-Apple phones because they're cheaper.

        That's really it. Here is a market where the message of Laptop Hunters (Hey, we're cheaper) would work.
      • It is curious that you view the competition as Apple

        @metromalenyc ... Windows has a 1.5% market share. iOS 15%. Android 52%. Why wouldn't you try to hit Android?
      • RE: As the Microsoft Windows Phone org churns


        That is a great idea for an ad! Nice.

        @HollywoodDog - I think metromalenyc is showing differentiation between the iPhone and WP other than price. Ways that the WP "just works" and is different than the iPhone or Android phones.

        @HollywoodDog - I think WP will take market share where ever it can get it. I do think MS owes Apple one for the whole "PC guy" versus "Mac guy". Unbelievable how effective those ads were.

        Reading online, one theory coming out is that Microsoft has alienated both the carriers and the handset makers. If that is the case, even ads like the one suggested won't help. Hard to believe as Microsoft owes its existence to the Windows ecosystem of hardware and software developers. If anyone should have understood the importance of partners, they should have. Google certainly did and Apple never does.
  • RE: As the Microsoft Windows Phone org churns

    given WP marketing is so terrible and combined with poor carrier relations has resulted in really bad sales. any change that would affect marketing is a good change.
    • RE: As the Microsoft Windows Phone org churns

      +1 for this.
      Marketing for Windows Phone has been, let's remain polite, anemic. It really looks like they have no clue. It was managed like an old-style, "as usual" campain. It lacks puch, distinction and soul.

      I really start to think that the name is one of the Windows Phone issues that keep it from taking off. Microsoft may have to accept that its name is not required on everything they push out.

      And yes, marketing needs a serious refresh.
      • RE: As the Microsoft Windows Phone org churns

        @TheCyberKnight They don't really know how to market, because they've seldom ever really had to. They've been at the top pretty much from the beginning, so they never really had to convince people to buy their wares.

        The result is that when they come to a situation where they have to try to sell the product, we see that they're generally not very good at this sort of thing.
        Third of Five
      • RE: As the Microsoft Windows Phone org churns

        Currently sucks. About the best positive exposure the phone gets is that Kenzie in NCIS:LA has one :;)
  • Nokia says ....

    ... its Windows Phones are selling well in all markets so far. Some analysts don't think so. (Something tells me Nokia knows better than analysts how its own phones are selling.) What shocked me was when I did a search on 'Nokia Lumia' on YouTube last weekend. I found the reviews of the Lumia 800 consistently very positive, and many, when comparing the Lumia 800 to the iPhone, were actually 'dissing' the iPhone in favor of the Lumia 800. (Also the responses were particularly emotional - which is unusual for a MS product.)

    I wouldn't put that much stock in the minuscule market share numbers of Windows Phone from the last quarter - as a predictor of things to come. For many months, there has been virtually no marketing of Windows Phones, in addition to stores sales staff being hostile to Windows Phone. What really matters now is if MS and Nokia's new sales effort is actually working - and so far it appears to be.
    P. Douglas
    • RE: As the Microsoft Windows Phone org churns

      @P. Douglas

      Sure, if you hate the iPhone and Android you're naturally going to "Love" the only other option.

      I personally don't think people that have no opinion on iPhones or Droids will look past the FUGLY UI that is Windows Phone 7. And they are going to be even worse off with the pathetic app selection.
      • RE: As the Microsoft Windows Phone org churns

        45 000 is a pathetic app selection?
        How much spare time do you have? :)
      • Yes, 45,000 apps is a pathetic app selection...

        As the Windows faithful are always fond of pointing out, it doesn't matter the number of apps, what matters is the quality of apps. Of those 45,000, how many of them are high quality, commercial grade applications and how many are crapware? The Android market currently has over 200,000 apps and probably 99% of them are crap. That means they have a little over 2,000 apps that would qualify as quality, professional grade apps. If WP7 now has 45,000 apps available, it would have to more than quadruple the ratio of quality-to-crap. I'm doubting that's the case.
      • RE: As the Microsoft Windows Phone org churns

        @itguy10 Metro is highly functional. People start to notice it when they have to do some task, and not look for the icons. Now there are a lot of smartphone first time buyers, and they look for phone with icons, because iPhone has them, and iPhone is perceived as the best phone. Some time later users will be tired of icons, different menus, apps. I'm using RunKeeper more on WP than on Android because I have total week distance on tile, which keeps me motivated. Nokia just started with WP, and I know, they can market their phones. Let's wait for another iterations from Nokia.
      • RE: As the Microsoft Windows Phone org churns


        UI is a matter of taste really. when it comes to usefullness, WP7 is YEARS ahead of the competition. The os is rock solid stable, lightning fast and super usefull, it's not about apps , it's about data. Say bye to the decades old static icongrid that is deployed by Android and IOS, say hi to the 21st century of Metro, soon to be featured on the desktop as well !
    • RE: As the Microsoft Windows Phone org churns

      @P. Douglas Nokia is acting like their parent company (Microsoft). If Windows mobile Phone 7 phones were selling as well as Microsoft would have you believe. Saying it was their best launch in the last year is not much to write home about. When the only other launch was labeled as DOA, by Nokia (releasing a n OS with a device you have already declared obsolete). Still the analysts believe that Nokia will only sip half a million handsets (down from two million).
      • RE: As the Microsoft Windows Phone org churns

      • RE: As the Microsoft Windows Phone org churns

      • RE: As the Microsoft Windows Phone org churns

        First off it is called "Windows Phone 7", apparently in your infinite wisdom you managed to miss that. Nokia isn't acting anything like Microsoft, they are just excited they are finally able to launch product again. They didn't say it was the best launch in a year, they said it has been the best launch in years and later one of their best launches ever. Only other launch? What are you talking about? The N8? Have you seen those sales figures? Lastly, I love how you say analysts... You mean analyst as in a singular entity. Not one other analyst felt the same, so out of hundreds one feels different? Maybe he was an insecure individual as are you. Everyone should be silent until actual sales figures are released by Nokia. If Nokia is sold out and back ordered I would imagine it is due to high volume of sales and demand. Picked as editors choice phone (Nokia Lumia 800) as well topping the sales charts as well in France and UK I would have to say the phone is off to a decent start. It should only pick up speed from there. We'll have better sales figures from Nokia by the end of this year. I'm expecting over a million units sold at minimum. We shall see. Expect a lot of this...

        From the comments on wpc regarding Nokia WP7

        By andymodem on Mon, 19 Dec 2011 8:33 pm EST

        If Nokia announced a 4.3" LTE enabled WP7 for AT&T, my iPhone 4S would be on eBay the day they were available.
      • RE: As the Microsoft Windows Phone org churns