Tellme's Mike McCue offers parting thoughts

As he prepares to leave Microsoft and the company he founded, the former Tellme CEO talks about his time at the world's biggest software maker.

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
2 min read

Mike McCue was a bit choked up Wednesday after announcing he will leave Microsoft next month, two years after the software giant acquired Tellme Networks, where McCue was a founder and chief executive.

"It's kind of an unusual feeling to leave a company you've started," McCue said in a telephone interview, following a meeting with his staff. "It is a big change. There is no question about it. It was an emotional all-hands meeting."

Mike McCue said the future of his 20th anniversary Mac (shown here) is up in the air, like his own future. But while the Mac may end up in a tech museum, McCue isn't looking to retire. Instead, he said he plans to advise start-ups and return to "his entrepreneurial roots." Ina Fried/CNET

McCue said that he wants to get back to "his entrepreneurial roots."

"I haven't really thought about what I want to do next other than that I am going to advise a couple of start-ups," McCue said. "It seems that's a good way to get back into start-up land."

He says he is still figuring lots of things out. For instance, he still isn't sure what to do with the rare 20th anniversary Mac that sits on his desk. He might donate it to a computer museum when he finally leaves in 45 days, or he might take it with him.

As for his own plans, McCue said he plans to take the summer off, but also added. "If I find an idea that's really, really big...maybe I will start another company."

Not surprisingly, McCue said it was the people he would miss the most. He laughed when asked what he would miss the least. Answering diplomatically, the often plain-spoken McCue said he's looking forward to being in a small company again.

"I just won't thrive as much in a big company setting as I would in a small company setting," McCue said.

As for his effort to infuse design deeper into Microsoft, that's still a work in progress. "I'd give it probably a 'C-plus' to a 'B' right now," McCue said, but he noted that there are others at the company that share that priority and said he has been impressed over the last six months. "I would say it's on an upward trajectory, a steep upward trajectory."

He said design is critical in the world of consumer electronics.

"It's what makes the iPod the iPod and a Creative Labs MP3 player a Creative Labs MP3 player," he said. "It's this secret sauce. We do it here and we love it. We're starting to export that. There's a lot of momentum on that front."

McCue said he doesn't expect a lot of staff to leave in the wake of his departure, and that of co-founder Angus Davis, just as there wasn't that much turnover after the Microsoft deal went through.

"It wasn't so much retention bonuses," he said. "It was the vision."