Microsoft Takes Spotlight Off Windows in AI-Focused Reorg
- By Gladys Rama
- March 29, 2018
A major Microsoft reorganization announced Thursday appears to signal a shift in the company's approach to its bread-and-butter Windows business.
CEO Satya Nadella detailed the reorg in a memo to Microsoft employees, describing it as a way to "accelerate" the company's innovation around artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing and mixed reality. Nadella said these technological advances "represent a tremendous opportunity for our customers, our partners -- everyone."
To that end, Nadella announced the creation of two new engineering units -- Experiences & Devices, led by Corporate Vice President Rajesh Jha; and Cloud + AI Platform, led by Scott Guthrie, head of Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise -- as well as the creation of a new ethics committee focused on AI.
The reorg also entails a major executive departure. Terry Myerson, a Microsoft veteran of over two decades and most recently the head of the company's Windows and Devices group, is leaving.
Combined, his departure and the restructuring have been widely characterized as a sign that Microsoft is moving to de-emphasize Windows and PCs as it pivots its business toward faster-growing technologies.
Nadella said that Myerson helped to plan the reorg and will be on standby to help during the transition.
"Terry has been instrumental in helping me arrive at this new organizational structure, and I deeply appreciate his leadership and insight as we've worked through the opportunity that lies ahead. Over the past several years, Terry and the WDG [Windows and Devices] team transformed Windows to create a secure, always up-to-date, modern OS. His strong contributions to Microsoft over 21 years from leading Exchange to leading Windows 10 leave a real legacy," Nadella wrote in the memo.
New Engineering Teams
Under Jha, the new Experiences & Devices team will be responsible for creating "a unifying product ethos across our end-user experiences and devices," particularly for mobile and multi-device users, according to Nadella. A key objective of the team will be creating a common user experience across Windows, Office and third-party products under the Microsoft 365 banner.
Reporting to Jha will be:
- Panos Panay, who now has the title of chief product officer. Panay "will be the key leader ensuring end-to-end devices business execution excellence," Nadella said.
- Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Operating Systems group. Belfiore will continue to be focused on Windows development, particularly across form factors.
- Kudo Tsunoda, corporate vice president for Next Gen Experiences, who will be tasked with creating "high-value experiences" for users.
- Corporate Vice President Brad Anderson, who will focus on "Windows Enterprise deployment and management efforts with even tighter alignment across Microsoft 365."
Meanwhile, the Guthrie-helmed Cloud + AI Platform team will be responsible for driving "platform coherence and compelling value across all layers of the tech stack starting with the distributed computing fabric (cloud and edge) to AI (infrastructure, runtimes, frameworks, tools and higher-level services around perception, knowledge and cognition)," Nadella wrote.
Guthrie's team will comprise:
- Jason Zander, who is being promoted from corporate vice president of Azure to executive vice president. Zander is also inheriting the Windows platform team to help create a more "unified distributed computing infrastructure and application model." In addition, Roanne Sones, general manager of Strategy and Ecosystem for Windows and Devices, will become part of Zander's team.
- Microsoft's Universal Store and Commerce Platform led by Eric Lockard.
- A new team, dubbed AI Perception & Mixed Reality, to be led by Alex Kipman, a Microsoft Technical Fellow and the inventor of the Kinect and HoloLens devices.
- Another new team called AI Cognitive Services & Platform to be led by Eric Boyd. Boyd will be joined by Joseph Sirosh, head of AI and Research at Microsoft.
Some responsibilities that were previously the purview of Gurdeep Singh Pall, head of Business AI at Microsoft, are also being transitioned as part of the reorg. Singh Pall's Customer Service, Marketing and Sales Insights teams will join the Business Applications Group led by James Phillips, while his Ambient Intelligence team will now fall under Kipman.
The existing AI and Research Group, which was formed in 2016, will remain under the watch of Executive Vice President Harry Shum.
AI Ethics Group
Nadella also announced the formation of a new committee charged with navigating the legal and ethical issues resulting from advances in AI.
The AI and Ethics in Engineering and Research (AETHER) Committee will be led by Shum and Brad Smith, Microsoft's chief legal officer.
The committee will effectively act as a social-responsibility watchdog overseeing Microsoft's AI efforts. For instance, Nadella said, "we are investing in strategies and tools for detecting and addressing bias in AI systems and implementing new requirements established by the GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation]."
Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.