A 15-year Microsoft veteran and member of the eight-person executive committee, Higgins is taking a leave of absence starting at the end of the year. He plans to return to the company sometime in 1999 in a different role, Microsoft said in a statement.
As group vice president of Microsoft's Interactive Media Group, Higgins oversees efforts such as MSN and Expedia, as well as all interactive CD-ROMs.
Before taking over the Interactive Media Group in 1996, Higgins was group vice president of the Applications and Content Group, where he spearheaded products such as Office and multimedia titles such as Encarta.
A Microsoft official said today that Higgins expects to take at least six months off before returning. He is leaving to spend more time with his family, the official said. Microsoft President Steve Ballmer will assume Higgins' duties on an interim basis until a replacement can be found.
Another executive who recently left Microsoft, Brad Silverberg, has not returned in an official role thus far. Silverberg is currently consultant to Microsoft on specific projects and has worked with the Interactive Media Group. Silverberg initially took his leave to go on an extended bike trip through Europe. Microsoft announced earlier this year that he would be on an indefinite leave.