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Ironic exit: Microsoft's Maritz quits

Although planned, the retirement of a key executive comes at a crucial time in the evolution of Microsoft's Windows

High-level attrition is not unknown at Microsoft, which has lost several top managers in the last year. But the timing of group vice president Paul Maritz's decision to retire had a particular touch of irony.

Microsoft announced his retirement on the eve of the crucial release of Windows Millennium Edition. Maritz was recently put in charge of coordinating work on the core technologies at the heart of Windows.

The company said in a press release that the 14-year Microsoft veteran, who is leaving the company for unspecified personal reasons, will remain a strategic and business consultant to Microsoft.

Maritz had recently stepped up to the Windows product plate after another group vice president, Jim Allchin, departed for more than four months on a sabbatical. Officials said Allchin recently returned to Microsoft. There had been speculation that Allchin's sabbatical might transmogrify into an unofficial retirement -- as has turned out to be the case with other top company officials over the past few years.

Maritz was one of the key executives Microsoft selected to usher in its .Net strategy at its Forum 2000 launch in June. .Net is Microsoft's plan for remaking its dependence on packaged software sales into one based on services. Maritz was also the executive chosen to showcase the launch of Microsoft's Visual Studio .Net development tool at the company's Professional Developers Conference in July.

Maritz was considered the peacemaker between two senior powerful executives, Brad Silverberg and Jim Allchin, who held sharply divergent views about bundling Internet Explorer in the Windows operating system.

Maritz also is credited for acting as the unofficial peacekeeper between Allchin and former Microsoft vice president Brad Silverberg during the mid-1990s. During testimony in the Microsoft antitrust trial, documents were submitted that pointed up the strong divide between Allchin and Silverberg about whether Microsoft should bundle its Internet browser into Windows. Allchin strongly favoured the integration of the two products.

More recently, in a March reorganisation the company more closely aligned Allchin's platform products group and Maritz's platform strategy and developer group. At that time, Allchin was assigned to working on future Windows releases, while Maritz took on the role of piloting day-to-day system software development.

The March reorganisation marked a re-emergence of Maritz into the limelight. Little more than a year before, Maritz was thought to be close to retirement, after battling simultaneously with a case of malaria and the fallout regarding his testimony during the Microsoft antitrust trial.

During his time on the stand in January 1999, Maritz discussed at length Microsoft's view on the potential competitive threat posed to its core Windows and Office businesses by Linux and other open-source efforts.

As part of its announcement regarding Maritz, Microsoft announced that Vice President Sanjay Parthasarathy, who formerly reported to Maritz, has been appointed to a new role of developer evangelism and business development, reporting directly to Microsoft CEO and president Steve Ballmer.

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