Microsoft Windows veteran Joe Belfiore takes a year leave-of-absence

Joe Belfiore, one of Microsoft's key lieutenants on Windows, is taking a year's break. What gives?
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Joe Belfiore, a key member of the Windows team, is planning to take a year's leave-of-absence starting in November 2015.

Belfiore used Facebook to publicly announce his plans. In his posting, he attributed his decision to wanting to spend more time with his family. (But he made sure to say he'd be back to Microsoft once the year was up.)

Belfiore has been with Microsoft for 25 years in a variety of roles. His current Twitter profile says he "runs the team building Phone/Tablet/PC versions of Windows."

Belfiore's current job is overseeing product engineering for the user experience of Windows across devices, which includes shell/taskbar/desktop/settings; IE and Edge; communications experiences; photos, music, videos, maps apps; and Continuum for convertible devices. He also has managed the Windows Phone and Media Center teams.

The timing of Belfiore's departure lines up with the expected timing for Windows 10 Mobile's release to manufacturing, which sources have said will happen in November, as well as with the release of Threshold 2, the upcoming feature update to Windows 10.

Here's Belfiore's note on Facebook about his plans:

"I have some news to share with all of you!

"Kristina and I are always trying to help our kids understand just how FORTUNATE our family is ... we live in a great country, we both have had amazing jobs/great careers, and all of us have benefitted from a terrific educational system (and even an amazing health-care system!).

"Beyond those, we also try to maintain an appreciation for what a precious resource TIME is. After all, when you have young kids, you see the time going by really fast. With Alexander in 6th grade, we already feel like high school is right around the corner. Eeeesh.

"SO... after dreaming about the idea for years... and with our kids getting ALMOST too old for something crazy... we've decided that we are going to take our family on the EDUCATIONAL TRIP OF OUR LIFETIME.

"In January - we're heading out on SEMESTER AT SEA for a journey around the world, along with 600+ college students and a handful of faculty and "lifelong learners" like us.

"We think a floating college campus will be an amazing environment for everyone in our family to get a chance to see and experience the diversity all around the world and better appreciate what we have here. We've coveted the opportunity to spend a lot of time with each other and our kids--and we're taking advantage of it while we can!

"As for me and my job... when the trip is over, I'll be right back at it! I'm proud to have spent the last 25 years working for a thoughtful and considerate company here at Microsoft. It's a company and community whose values align with mine and whose management has been completely supportive of me and my family in pursuing this idea. I'm taking an extended personal leave-of-absence starting in November: we're gonna visit family and show the kids the great cities of the northeast US before we leave on the ship. I'll be back at MS in my same job working on Windows next summer, in time for the kids to get back into the normal US school routine.

"We're thrilled to share our exciting news with all of you! At some point, we'll figure out a blog or facebook page or... something. But for now... wish us luck and send us your ideas on what to see!"

Belfiore had been noticeably missing from a few recent Microsoft events, with evangelist Bryan Roper filling in as "demo lead" for Windows 10, as of late.

Contacts are asking me if there's more to Belfiore's decision to take a break than meets the eye. I've heard some wondering whether Belfiore's absence offers clues about Microsoft's long-term commitment (or lack thereof) to Windows Phones. All I can say is with Microsoft's own executives talking up the company's growing interest in Android, even if it's just a "Plan B" at this point, it does give some of us Windows Phone faithful pause....

I've asked Microsoft who will be replacing Belfiore while he's gone. No word back so far.

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