The Curious Case of Martin Taylor
Who killed Martin Taylor? Well, nobody did. As far as we know, he's still
alive. But his career as a Microsoft big shot is dead, and nobody is quite
sure why. In a bizarre story that sounds like a plot twist out of a spy
novel or a gangster movie, Taylor, who was in the public eye for Microsoft
just two days ago, suddenly doesn't work for the company anymore
Taylor, in case you were wondering, is -- sorry, was -- a Microsoft
VP and head of marketing for Windows Live and MSN. That's right. He was
the guy tapped in March to fight the marketing fight in Microsoft's battle
of a lifetime, the struggle against Google (and others) for Internet supremacy
on many levels, from search to software as a service (the latter of which
wrote about in RCP in our March issue). That made him a very
important guy, largely because search, in particular, is one of the few
battles that Microsoft is losing (even
right at home in Redmond) and badly wants to win. In fact, Steve Ballmer
is staking much of the future of the company on the Windows Live-MSN effort
(as we told you right here
in "RCP Update" a month ago). Add to that the fact that
Taylor, a 13-year Microsoft veteran, was once one of Steve Ballmer's right-hand
guys, and this disappearance becomes even more strange and disquieting.
Taylor's was obviously a sudden departure and seems to have been completely
unplanned. Just a couple of days ago, he was featured in a Q&A
on Microsoft's Web site about Windows Live and the launch of Windows Live
Messenger, the company's new instant-messaging client. He was, in fact,
supposed to be an integral part of the
company's big press push around the Windows Live concept, or brand,
or offering...or whatever it's supposed to be.
We'll see now whether Microsoft believes the old saw that there's no such
thing as bad publicity, because Taylor's departure will probably make
bigger news than this week's Windows Live Messenger launch ever would
And speaking of news, Microsoft's handling of this little episode with
the press has been the source of high comedy. The Redmondians apparently
handled Taylor's unexpected departure with all the tact and aplomb of
Saddam Hussein's old information minister. Check out this yarn from Forbes
(which should be lauded for working the word "habitué"
into a story about Microsoft): "Yesterday when reporters were seeking
to interview Ballmer's head of Windows Live Marketing on the unit's new
Instant Messenger offering, they were told that Martin Taylor had been
held up in a Dallas airport and would be stuck there until Monday. The
following day, after Taylor's e-mail address began bouncing back any electronic
missives, the software giant finally gave notice: 'We've made the difficult
decision to part ways with Martin Taylor,' it said in a statement."
Held up in a Dallas airport! There is absolutely no question that next
time an employee here gets fired (which hopefully won't ever happen),
we'll be speculating here in the office as to whether he or she "got
held up in a Dallas airport." Thanks for the catchphrase, Microsoft!
And while it's pure speculation to say so (because, again, we don't know
what happened), it does at least sound as though Taylor got fired. That
"difficult decision to part ways with Martin Taylor" statement
doesn't really sound like the classic "pursue other opportunities"
or "spend more time with his family" line we usually get when
some high-profile person bails on a job. Really, though, it doesn't matter
all that much why Taylor is gone. What matters is that in a time of instability
for Microsoft -- with Bill Gates' announcement and Ray Ozzie's ascendancy
still fresh on observers' minds -- the company has lost not just a
veteran and Ballmer confidant but also a key player in perhaps its most
important (and, in a relative sense, maybe its least successful) operation.
And that's bad news for everybody in and around Microsoft.
Are you concerned by the current instability in Redmond? What do you
think happened to Martin Taylor's job? (And be creative if you want!) Let
me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
column was originally published in our weekly
Redmond Partner Update newsletter. To subscribe,
I Want One Like Twiki From Buck Rogers
"In the future we all die; machines will last forever. Metal things
just turn to rust when you're a robot" -- from the song "Robot"
by the Futureheads. Worth a download, that one. Anyway, because Redmond
hasn't already done enough to stray from the Windows-Office axis (Xbox,
anyone?), welcome to the
Microsoft Robotics Studio era.
Thus far, not
everybody is overly impressed…
What do you want from your Microsoft robot? email@example.com
Ellison Leaves Harvard Hanging
Oracle's head honcho just had to find a way to get into the news after
last week's Gates bombshell, didn't he? Apparently Larry Ellison hasn't ponied up the money
that he promised Harvard for the Ellison Institute
for World Health a while back.
Larry, listen. Don't blow your money on Harvard. Gates has world health
covered, anyway. You don't want to play second fiddle to him again, do
you? There's a little private school in Texas that could use a new football
training facility and some stadium upgrades. E-mail me -- we'll talk....
Helping Redmond Help Itself
I've asked in recent editions of the newsletter what you thought about
the Microsoft Forefront brand name and whether you had any helpful suggestions
for Redmond for the name of its coming iPod rival.
Brian chimed in on Forefront: "Honestly it's probably the worst
name I've heard in years. Hopefully it is just a temporary name. Who thinks
up these names?"
People who get paid a lot more than I do, Brian, that's who. And I'm
afraid it's permanent.
For MD, the Forefront name brings up bad memories: "The name has
negative connotations to me. Back in the early 1980s, I purchased a less-than-useless
spreadsheet from a company call ForeFront Technologies."
That one goes back into the archives a bit, MD. I wonder how many people
at Redmond even remember that app.
As for the "iPod killer," Matthew writes to say that it already
has a name:
"The name for the rival is simple: The Pocket PC. It plays all your
movie/music files, and it has Office and other apps, too. Play solitaire
while listening to your MP3s and waiting for that e-mail. Why re-invent
the wheel? They already have an iPod killer; they only need someone in
marketing to wake up."
And from Rick, the e-mail of the week: "I'm not sure on the name,
but I hope the outside cover is made of rubber. Like a super ball. Then
tie the bounce affect into the reboot that Microsoft software needs."
Got any more thoughts? Drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by Lee Pender on June 21, 2006 at 11:53 AM