Kevin Johnson to leave Microsoft for Juniper

No successor has been named for Johnson, who has been president of Microsoft's Platforms and Services Division and is leaving to become CEO of Juniper Networks.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
3 min read

Updated at 6:45 a.m. July 24: Juniper Networks confirms it has hired Kevin Johnson as its new CEO.

REDMOND, Wash.--Kevin Johnson, Microsoft's online and Windows chief and a key figure in the company's failed Yahoo takeover effort, is leaving the company to become chief executive officer at Juniper Networks, Microsoft confirmed Wednesday.

No immediate successor has been named for Johnson, who as president of Microsoft's Platforms and Services Division had reported directly to CEO Steve Ballmer.

Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson Microsoft

In conjunction with Johnson's departure, Microsoft plans to split its Windows and Online Services division into two separate units, as they had been up until a couple of years ago. Microsoft is searching both inside and outside the company for a new online services chief, it said. (Ballmer announced the changes to Microsoft employees in a memo that also detailed Ballmer's strategies for competing with Apple, Google, and Yahoo.)

The company did not say how it plans to handle Windows duties, other than that Bill Veghte, who heads the business side of things, and Steve Sinofsky, who runs engineering operations, would report to Ballmer. Microsoft said Johnson's other immediate directs will also now report directly to Ballmer.

Juniper did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. But on Thursday, the company released a statement, confirming that Johnson will become CEO, effective in September.

In a statement announcing Johnson's departure, Ballmer praised Johnson's contribution to the company.

"Kevin has built a supremely talented organization and laid the foundation for the future success of Windows and our Online Services Business. This new structure will give us more agility and focus in two very competitive arenas," Ballmer said. "It has been a pleasure to work with Kevin, and we wish him well in the future."

As chief of Windows and Windows Live, Johnson was spearheading Microsoft's revamped online search and advertising strategy, which is considered key if Microsoft is to catch Google in the online search arena. He outlined the new strategy in a memo to his team in May while Microsoft was actively pursuing Yahoo. The takeover of Yahoo was expected to be a big boost to that effort.

After the first round of Microsoft's as-yet failed bid for Yahoo, Johnson in a memo to the troops tried to downplay the failure, saying part of the reason Microsoft abandoned its offer to buy Yahoo was that it viewed speed as of the essence if it were to buy the company.

Last month, Johnson heated up the Microhoo drama when the Financial Times Deutschland reported that he said software giant would be interested in bidding on a Yahoo under new management. However, according to a Microsoft representative, Johnson did not suggest such a scenario.

Johnson, who joined Microsoft in 1992, was named co-president of the Windows and online division as part of a sweeping reorganization of the company in 2005. When Jim Allchin, the other co-president retired a year later, Johnson assumed sole control.

Johnson was appointed group vice president of Microsoft's worldwide sales, marketing and services in 2003 after success leading the North and Latin America sales team. Before joining Microsoft, Johnson worked in systems integration and consulting business unit at IBM, and as a software developer in the petroleum and financial services industries.

CNET News' Steven Musil contributed to this report.