Microsoft shakes up entertainment unit; Bach out

In a reorganization, division chief Robbie Bach and CTO J. Allard are both leaving, with Microsoft splitting the entertainment and devices business into parts.

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

Microsoft shook up its entertainment and devices unit on Tuesday, with unit President Robbie Bach and Chief Technology Officer J. Allard both leaving the company.

Bach, who joined the company in 1988, is "retiring" and will leave the company in the fall, while Allard will be an adviser to CEO Steve Ballmer on "a specific set of projects," according to a Microsoft spokesman.

Robbie Bach
Robbie Bach Microsoft

"At Microsoft, I've been so fortunate to spend more than two decades of my life working with incredible people and doing amazing things like launching Office, Xbox and Xbox Live, the 'Halo' franchise, Windows Phones, Zune and more," Bach said in a statement. "I'm at the time in my life where I want to dedicate more time to my family and my nonprofit work, including my work with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. I have the utmost confidence in Steve, Don and Andy and their ability to see through our mission of bringing extraordinary entertainment and mobility experiences to life for people around the world."

In a statement, Ballmer praised Bach for his contributions.

"For the past 22 years, Robbie has personified creativity, innovation and drive," Ballmer said. "With this spirit, he has led a division passionately devoted to making Microsoft successful in interactive entertainment and mobility," Ballmer said. "Robbie's an amazing business person and close personal friend, which makes his departure a point of sadness for me."

The move comes as Microsoft's Xbox unit is on the verge of releasing Project Natal, but also as the company is struggling to keep up in the mobile business. The company has pinned its hopes on the release of Windows Phone 7 this holiday season, but has continued to lose market share to Apple's iPhone and Android-based devices.

In an e-mail Tuesday to Microsoft employees, Ballmer wrote: "Transitions are always hard. Robbie has been an instrumental part of so many key moments in Microsoft history--from the evolution of Office to the decision to create the first Xbox to pushing the company hard in entertainment overall. J as well has had a great impact in the market and on our culture, providing leadership in design, and in creating a passionate and involved Xbox community, and earlier being at the center of our work seizing the importance of the Web for the company."

In the wake of the shake-up, mobile unit head Andy Lees will report to Ballmer, and Don Mattrick, a former president of game maker Electronic Arts, will run the Xbox business and also report directly to Ballmer. Microsoft hasn't decided whether it will change how the company does its financial reporting.

The move is part of Microsoft's nearly annual spring house cleaning and reorganization effort. In other shifts, David Treadwell, who had been heading up Windows Live engineering will shift to the Xbox unit, reporting to Mattrick.

Meanwhile, Antoine LeBlond moves from a senior role heading up Office engineering to a role in the Windows unit, in charge of development of Web services. With that move Kurt DelBene will take over as head of all Office engineering.