The executive hemorrhage continues at Microsoft Corporation, which lost yet another vice president this week with the departure of Tod Nielson. Nielson, who is leaving Microsoft to join one of three Seattle-based startups that are wooing him, led the developer tools group at Microsoft and reported directly to Paul Maritz. He joins a long list of departing upper echelon executives, including Jim Allchin (who may return later this year), Nathan Mhyrvold, Pete Higgins, Greg Maffei, Brad Silverberg, and others. But Nielson is widely regarded as "one of the good guys," according to developers I spoke with, the friendly face of Microsoft to programmers. Nielson reportedly explained his decision to Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and Maritz two months ago.
"It's a little bit sad and unfair in the way the timing worked out, but it's just a case of new horizons," Nielsen said. "\[Gates, Ballmer, and Maritz\] were certainly disappointed, and they did everything to keep me there, but it was time for me to move to the next chapter of my life. I wanted to do my own thing again. My market value to try my own thing was high, and it was just a good time."
Nielson joined Microsoft in 1988, helping the software giant launch its foray into desktop databases with Access. After joining the development group, Nielson became a frequent speaker at developer tradeshows such as TechEd and the PDC. He was sent to Washington last year to help Microsoft's attorneys do battle with Apple Computer's Avie Tevanian, who took the stand in the company's antitrust trial. Nielson says that he was brought in to decipher Tevanian's tech speak "in real-time" for the lawyers. But Nielson's contributions were judged to be so valuable that he ended up staying there until the end of the trial.
"We wish Tod the very best," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "He has been an important contributor to Microsoft in a number of roles.