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The return of Paul Maritz, the Microsoft menace

Yikes. This is easily the most insightful column I've seen yet regarding VMWare's recent blockbuster move: They've unloaded CEO Diane Greene, who was admittedly a very nice person, and hired ex-Microsoft exec Paul Maritz to replace her. Anyone who thought that Microsoft was just going to roll all over VMWare in the virtualization market might need to reassess things a bit: Maritz is the real deal.

VMware is now getting one of the princes of the software world as its boss — and just in time, as it's facing tough competition from Microsoft, where Maritz used to work.

Once a high-flyer at Microsoft, Maritz was ousted in one of the software giant's typically obscure internecine battles back in 2000. Since then, he's quietly stewed in exile, starting a small software company which was bought by EMC, VMware's parent.

A lucky break for EMC to have Maritz on its bench. Ignore his cuddly-programmer looks; he is fearsome, and deservedly hated by enemies. Antitrust superlawyer David Boies couldn't make a dent in Maritz's armor when the executive took the stand in Microsoft's 1990s antitrust trial. VMware is up for a bruising battle with Microsoft for its software niche, which involves tools to let a computer server act like several separate ones — but I'm thinking Microsoft is the one we should feel sorry for.

Maritz's generation of leaders has mostly retired at Microsoft, yet most of their replacements' freshly scrubbed faces are still familiar to him. He knows all of Microsoft's dirty tricks, and he will enjoy serving them back at the young ones he once taught them to. This will be fun.


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