Bill Hill, eBook champion, leaves Microsoft

Bill Hill, eBook champion, leaves Microsoft

Summary: The timing couldn't be more ironic. The day before Amazon announced its latest eReader, one of Microsoft's foremost champions of screen-based reading revealed he'd be leaving the company. Bill Hill, the kilt-wearing Scotsman known as the driving force behind Microsoft ClearType, seemingly is another casualty of Microsoft's latest round of layoffs.

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The timing couldn't be more ironic. The day before Amazon announced its latest eReader, one of Microsoft's foremost champions of screen-based reading revealed he'd be leaving the company.

Bill Hill, the kilt-wearing Scotsman known as the driving force behind Microsoft ClearType, seemingly is another casualty of Microsoft's latest round of layoffs.

Hill joined Microsoft in 1994. In 1998, he joined a new electronic books project in Microsoft Research, run by then-vice-president Dick Brass. Hill ended up running the Microsoft team that developed ClearType, a font-display technology for computer screens.

In a May 5 post on his personal blog, Hill acknowledged he was leaving Microsoft. He also reflected on the screen-based reading world:

"I’ve become convinced over the past couple of years that no one company or browser will make the transition to reading on screen happen. I still believe in eBooks. Amazon has definitely seized the lead there, by providing the two things which were both essential to success – a device and a bookstore.

"I have some other ideas I’m not yet ready to talk about. And of course I'm available as a consultant."

Hill blogged about his belief that standards will be key to eBooks' future:

"The job of making the screen as comfortable to read as paper is not yet completed. I've come to believe that it is the development of Web standards, and standards-based rendering, which will take us the rest of the way.

"There’s huge potential. Two trillion pages are still printed in the US alone, every year, and that’s an enormous waste of energy and resources."

(There are a number of video interviews with the colorful and always entertaining Hill that have been posted on Microsoft's Channel 9 over the years. Here's the most recent.)

I keep thinking Microsoft must be going to jump into the eBook/reader market in some way, but so far haven't heard anything that would back my intuition. As an avid Kindle user, I have to say I'll be surprised if the Softies steer clear of this space....

By the way, Hill is may be just one of several surprising casualties of Microsoft's Round 2 of layoffs. Trustworthy Computing expert Steve Riley is another (who was definitely cut in the layoff round this week).

Topics: Enterprise Software, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility

About

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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15 comments
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  • His blog entry implies he wasn't laid off

    From everything I've read, the people who are in this most recent set of layoffs just found out about it this week. However Bill's blog entry states: "For some time, I have been preparing for leaving Microsoft by setting up my network and communications." So most likely he had been planning on leaving for a while, and the announcement of the timing is a coincidence.
    PB_z
    • Yeah, could be voluntary in a few cases

      I don't know if MS have been offering it, or if this even applies in the USA where labour laws are much more weighted towards employers, but in the UK when departments are told "You have to lose x% of staff" they sometimes let people who were thinking of leaving anyway take the redundancy package and become part of that x%. Sometimes it works out better for both the department (they only lost someone who was probably going to go anyway) and the employee (they get some extra money).

      So I've heard, anyway. I don't remember it ever happening at a place I've worked at.

      Even where it doesn't apply, I could see people who were thinking of leaving anyway jumping ship at the same time in order to spare one/some of their colleagues the boot. Or it could just be coincidental.

      To boil it down, I wouldn't assume that everyone leaving now was pushed. Most were overall of course but, individually, who knows.
      LeoD
    • voluntary

      Hi. I saw what you did: That he said he was preparing. That's why I said he was a "seeming casualty" of the layoffs. I haven't heard about Microsoft employees being allowed to volunteer for layoffs, but maybe some were given a heads-up about planned cuts and changes that led to them deciding to leave... MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
    • RE: Bill Hill, eBook champion, leaves Microsoft

      @PB_z <br><br> I don't know if MS have been offering it, or if this even applies in the USA where labour <a href="http://www.trsohbet.com">sohbet</a> laws are much more weighted towards employers, but in the UK when departments are told "You have to lose x% of staff" they sometimes let people who were thinking of leaving anyway take the redundancy package and become part of that x%. Sometimes it works out better for both the department (they only lost someone who was probably going to go anyway) and the employee (they get some extra money).<br><br>So I've heard, anyway. I don't remember it ever happening at a place I've worked at.<br><br>Even <a href="http://www.trsohbet.com">chat</a> where it doesn't apply, I could see people who were thinking of leaving anyway jumping ship at the same time in order to spare one/some of their colleagues the boot. Or it could just be coincidental.<br><br>To boil it down, I wouldn't assume <a href="http://www.trsohbet.com/portal">portal</a> that everyone leaving now was pushed. Most were overall of course but, individually, <a href="http://www.forumuz.net">forum</a> who knows.
      cstrathmore
  • Another one heading to Apple? (nt)

    nt
    A Grain of Salt
    • @A Grain of Salt

      More "Brain Drain"?
      Axsimulate
      • RE: Bill Hill, eBook champion, leaves Microsoft

        ok
        hardwork1
    • RE: Bill Hill, eBook champion, leaves Microsoft

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  • "going to jump into the eBook/reader market in some way"

    MJ, it's not intuition, it's a subconscious programming that you have. Your subconscious has revealed to you that there is a market that MS has yet to make a noisy yet technically laughable me-too implementation.
    fr0thy2
  • RE: Bill Hill, eBook champion, leaves Microsoft

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  • RE: Bill Hill, eBook champion, leaves Microsoft

    Was a "hidden" fired !!!
    jdoe59
  • RE: Bill Hill, eBook champion, leaves Microsoft

    Was "hidden" fired!!!
    jdoe59
  • Mary Jo make up your mind

    "Bill Hill, eBook champion, leaves Microsoft"

    This implies he left on his on accord.

    "By the way, Hill is just one of several surprising casualties of Microsoft?s Round 2 of layoffs."

    This implies he was laid off.

    Which is it Mary Jo? Can't make up your mind?

    One thing is for certain, your consistently inconsistent.
    Axsimulate
    • thanks

      Thanks for the correction. I amended the post, based on your kind note, so that it reflects the fact that we don't know for sure whether Hill left on the same day that the Round 2 of layoffs happened. MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
  • RE: Bill Hill, eBook champion, leaves Microsoft

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