Re-org at Microsoft relocates UC head to its emerging markets unit

Last year at a conference in Los Angeles, Microsoft introduced spectators to its new efforts to reach emerging markets and build innovative new form factors...to somewhat mixed results. This morning, there was a mix-up of another kind.

At last year's WinHEC conference in Los Angeles, the opening session featured Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates' proclamation that the telephone and the PC were merging, followed soon thereafter by a demonstration from Chief Research Officer Craig Mundie. It was obvious to everyone that what Mundie's team produced for him couldn't keep up with Gates' presentation of Unified Communications, especially when Mundie found himself extolling the virtues of a piece of assemble-it-yourself furniture that had been converted into a device to remind seniors to take their medication.

It's almost a year later, but it may just take that long these days for heads to roll. The two men in charge of the Unlimited Potential Group, whose task it was to develop new form factors and investigate unexplored business models for Microsoft, find themselves repositioned this morning, with former UPG head Will Poole having decided to retire from Microsoft this fall, BetaNews confirmed with Microsoft this morning.

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While it was never really clear that Poole was in charge of any specific projects, he was Corporate Vice President of UPG, and was often the man chosen to represent some of its projects to the press. For a time, Microsoft Surface was one of its best-known projects, and Poole was also associated with an infrequent Microsoft PC form factor innovation contest whose finalists last year included one that doubles as a portable shish-ka-bob grille (picture available here). For the next half-year or so, Poole will still be reporting to Mundie, though in a position described as "driving cross-group strategic initiatives."

Poole was moved into UPG in March 2006, originally to head an emerging markets group which had the ominous task of grafting a purpose onto its fledgling UMPC form factor. Earlier, he had been in charge of the Windows Client Division, at a time when the company's Trusted Platform project -- at one time code-named Palladium -- was transferred out of his purview and re-assigned to the Security Business Unit. Just yesterday, one of the architects of Microsoft's Trusted Platform strategy publicly lamented his company's diversion from its original course, and advocated a return to the Trusted Platform.

It seems Will Poole couldn't catch a break.

Moving out of UPG along with Poole is Orlando Ayala, though based on Microsoft's comments today, it appears he will be staying with the company. Ayala will report to Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner, though the wording of a Microsoft statement today makes it appear as though Ayala had been reporting to Turner anyway, even though he was officially part of UPG.

Taking Poole's place at UPG is Anoop Gupta, whose most recent project at Microsoft has met with some success: Unified Communications, the company's strategy to move telephony onto the PC platform where the software industry can have a stake. Gupta is a veteran researcher and educator, having served over a decade at Stanford University as a computer science professor, and thereafter having served Bill Gates as his personal technology assistant.

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