Microsoft's Cortana boss Javier Soltero is leaving the company

Microsoft's head of Cortana is going to depart the company before the year is over, as Microsoft brings more of its research projects into its Experiences and Devices group.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor
Credit: CNET

More fine-tunings from Microsoft's big reorg earlier this year involving Windows are continuing. The latest moves, announced internally at Microsoft on November 6, my sources say, include the departure by year-end of Corporate Vice President of Cortana Javier Soltero.

Soltero joined Microsoft when it bought at the end of 2014 Acompli, a mobile mail startup in San Francisco which he co-founded and led. After joining Microsoft four years ago, Soltero spearheaded Outlook Mobile, then all of Outlook. He was head of strategy for Office before he was appointed to run Cortana in March 2018.

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Last month, Microsoft officials confirmed that Cortana was one of the technologies that management was moving from AI + Research to the Experiences & Devices team, which is under Executive Vice President Rajesh Jha.

Microsoft is in the midst of trying to reposition Cortana from a standalone digital assistant to more of an assistance aide. Given the strong focus on home and work productivity by the Microsoft 365 and Office teams, officials seemingly decided it made sense for Cortana to be situated in that group.

Soltero had a big impact at Microsoft during his four years, sometimes by acting as the bull in the china shop, in terms of shaking up long-standing ways of doing things inside the company.

I've heard Soltero is going to go back to doing entrepreneurial activities once he leaves by year-end. I asked Microsoft for comment on his planned departure and was told by a spokesperson that the company had nothing to share.

Update: Soltero confirmed he is leaving via a thread on Twitter on November 6.

Perry Clarke is going to be working with Soltero on transition plans in the next couple of months, sources are telling me. Clarke has been with Microsoft engineering since 1996, when he led Exchange. He also has been a Microsoft Distinguished Engineer for the past several years. I've heard talk that Microsoft ultimately is looking to bring Cortana and Search together into a single engineering team.

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In addition to the announcement of Soltero's planned departure, Microsoft also made public internally a few other reorg pieces, I've heard.

Corporate Vice President of AI + Research Lili Cheng's bot/bot framework teams are moving under Jha. And the Skype and Teams organizations are being combined and will be run by Corporate Vice President Brian Macdonald (who currently runs Microsoft Teams), my contacts say.

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