More shake-ups on the Windows Live side of the Microsoft house?

On the heels of the retirement of Blake Irving, the former Vice President in charge of the Windows Live Platforms group, more reorg changes affecting Microsoft's Windows Live unit are in the works.

On the heels of the retirement of Blake Irving, the former Vice President in charge of the Windows Live Platforms group, more reorg changes affecting Microsoft's Windows Live unit are in the works.

According to various sources close to the company, Christopher Payne, the Corporate VP in charge of Windows Live Search, could be the next to leave the Live unit. It's not clear whether Payne will move to another group or leaving Microsoft all together. Payne's departure, like Irving's, is slated to be announced soon, possibly this week, sources claimed.

Update on March 8: Payne is out. "Someone in the Live group at Microsoft confirmed the situation, on condition he was identified only as a knowledgeable source," according to the Seattle Times.

(While Payne's title, according to Microsoft's Web site, is Corporate VP of Windows Live Search, it seems "Windows Live Search" now is officially known as "Live Search. It was formerly known as MSN Search.)

Rumors of reorgs on the Windows Live side of the Microsoft house have been swirling for months. Microsoft has been losing, at worst -- and holding steady, at best -- its share of the Web search market.

"I think Microsoft needs to do something to increase itscompetitiveness in Web search," said Directions on Microsoft analyst Matt Rosoff. "It's clear that Microsoft is lagging behind the market, showing no traffic growth in the U.S. while the two leaders, Google and Yahoo, have shown considerable growth.

(My ZDNet blogging colleage Larry Dignan thinks Microsoft's search problems would be solved if Microsoft simply bought Yahoo.)

"There's a direct link between search and revenue for Microsoft's Online business unit, so if they're not performing on all fronts, it'll show up in their financial results," Rosoff added. "They've done a good job improving ROI (return on investment) for advertisers, which should increase their average revenue per search. But they also need to do a better job increasing the absolute number of queries served."

Like Irving, Payne is a Microsoft veteran. During his first tour of Microsoft duty, Payne worked for eight years on the Microsoft Access team. He rejoined Microsoft in 2001 after three years with As VP of Live Search, Payne is in charge of search overall. He also is in charge of Windows Live Shopping, recently renamed MSN Shopping.

Microsoft officials would not comment on whether or when the rumored Payne announcement will be made. They also declined to comment on when or whether Microsoft will have more to say on a more sweeping Windows Live and/or Live Search reorg.

The official response on Payne, delivered by a corporate spokeswoman for Windows Live: "We cannot comment on rumors or speculation."

According to one source close to the company, Brad Goldberg, general manager with Microsoft's Windows client division, may soon be moving to the Live search team to take a leadership role of some sort there.

When asked for comment on Goldberg's plans, a Microsoft Windows spokeswoman said: "Brad Goldberg is ready for his next challenge and will be taking a new leadership role within PSD (Microsoft's Platforms and Services Division). More details will be available soon."

(Update: Bloomberg confirmed on March 7 that Goldberg has been named head of marketing for Microsoft's Internet search team.)

However and whenever Microsoft ends up doing the corporate shuffle, it needs to address search, Rosoff emphasized.

"I'm not sure what Microsooft can do next, but traffic acquisition deals, as they did with Facebook, and integration of Live Search with core Microsoft software (not just online services) seem to be two logical steps," Rosoff said. "They have to be a little careful about integration because of antitrust issues. If they were to integrate Live Search into Windows, for example, and suddenly start cutting into Google's market share, Google might complain to the authorities."


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