Do Microsoft Management Changes Signal the End of Millennium?

On December 3, Microsoft President, Steve Ballmer, announced a thorough reshuffling of Microsoft’s upper-level management and some dramatic structural shifts. The most important structural change is the merger of the two Windows divisions—the Consumer Division and the Business and Enterprise Division—into one. Microsoft promoted Jim Allchin to group vice president of the Platforms Group, which includes the new Windows team and the streaming media team. Some industry observers speculate that this move might mean the end of Millennium, the consumer Windows OS. Previously, work on the Windows platform was divided into two distinct OSs. The Business Division had the soon-to-be-released Windows 2000 Server (Win2K Server) and Win2K Professional (Win2K Pro), based on the Windows NT kernel. The Consumer Division had Millennium, a desktop OS based on the Windows 9x kernel. However, development on Millennium was faltering. Unifying these two divisions might mark the return to a single Windows strategy. Although no official word has appeared regarding Millennium’s demise, normally responsive Microsoft hasn’t replied to any of my inquiries regarding Millennium for a couple of weeks. This reticence might be a sign that Millennium is in turmoil. The promotion of Allchin, who was formerly in charge of Win2K, might represent an increased faith in his ability. He is probably most responsible for Win2K’s reputed high reliability. (For more on how Allchin helped fix the Windows OS, see Jim Allchin Addresses Windows NT’s Reliability.) Other changes in the Platforms Group include Vice President Deborah Willingham, who is now in charge of marketing for Windows, and new Vice President Anthony Bay, who heads up streaming media. Microsoft also promoted Bob Muglia to group vice president of the Business Productivity Group. Muglia is in charge of productivity software—Office and BackOffice products—and related productivity appliances, such as handhelds. Other changes in the Business Productivity Group include new Senior Vice President Steven Sinofsky, who runs the Microsoft Office group; new Senior Vice President Paul Gross, who heads up Server Applications; and Vice President Brian McDonald, who is in charge of New Application Technologies. Microsoft has also created a new division, the Small Business Division, to focus on e-commerce and other services for small business. The company promoted David Cole, formerly head of the Consumer Windows Division, to senior vice president heading the new Consumer Services Division. This division focuses on developing communication and collaboration services and advancing consumer Internet access. In addition, Microsoft has realigned and renamed the Consumer and Commerce Group under Vice President Rick Belluzzo. Now called the Consumer Group, Belluzzo’s group also includes the Consumer Strategy Division under Vice President Hank Vigil; the Home and Retail Division under Vice President Robbie Bach; and David Cole’s new Consumer Services Division. This reshuffling, coming on the heels of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Microsoft monopoly lawsuit's Findings of Fact by Judge Jackson, has many speculating that it foreshadows changes to come. Microsoft and the DOJ are entering the discussion phase of remedies before that case goes back to Judge Jackson for the Conclusions of Law in late February. One remedy under discussion is the creation of a Windows OS company, something these changes might streamline. The effect that this management shakeup will have on both the Windows CE and Millennium projects is real and palpable. The new managers for these OSs are probably actively reviewing both projects right now.

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