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Microsoft's executive shuffle expected Thursday

Software maker plans to move leaders in its Windows, Windows Live, and Windows Mobile units. Executives leaving the company include two prominent outside hires.

Updated 10:30 p.m. with comments from Mike Sievert.

I'll say it again. Microsoft has a lot to learn when it comes to celebrating Valentine's Day.

A long-anticipated Microsoft executive shuffle will be formally announced on Thursday, according to sources familiar with the company's plans.

Steve Berkowitz
Steve Berkowitz Microsoft

The move will see three top executives--including two prominent outside hires--leaving the company. Exiting Microsoft are: Senior Vice President Steven Berkowitz, the former Ask.com CEO who had been heading Microsoft's online services unit, and Mike Sievert, the former AT&T Wireless executive brought in to run Windows marketing. Both Sievert and Berkowitz had already seen some duties handed off to others at the company and their departures were largely expected.

Also leaving is Pieter Knook, longtime head of Microsoft's Windows Mobile unit.

Pieter Knook
Pieter Knook Microsoft

Knook, Sievert, and Berkowitz were not immediately available to comment. A Microsoft representative declined to comment on the moves.

As part of the changes, Bill Veghte will add Windows Live marketing oversight to his responsibility running the Windows business unit. On the mobile side, longtime server and tools unit executive Andy Lees is headed over to the Mobile and Embedded devices unit.

Other promotions are also expected, though the changes are not expected to result in any major reorganization of the businesses themselves, sources said.

Microsoft has had a checkered past when it comes to successfully bringing in outsiders to top executive posts. The latest departures show that relatively recent hires still struggle to find their way around Redmond.

That challenge will loom large for Microsoft if it manages to acquire Yahoo, which will bring with it no shortage of executives, though some would surely be part of the $1 billion in "synergies" that Microsoft believes it can cut. Microsoft has also placed a large bet on another outsider--former Macromedia CEO Stephen Elop--who is taking Jeff Raikes' role as head of Microsoft's business division.

Mike Sievert
Mike Sievert Microsoft

Update: In an e-mail, Sievert said he decided to leave Microsoft over the holidays and plans to start his own company. "When I told the company about my plans, we decided to wait until these other changes to announce my departure, to enable a smooth transition of leadership," Sievert said. His last day is Feb. 29.

"I'm excited about the next adventure but I will miss the challenges at Microsoft," Sievert said. "It is a great company with great people."