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Commentary: Three's no charm

Despite being Microsoft's president and chief operating officer, Rick Belluzzo could not overcome the combined force of Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.

By David Smith, Gartner Analyst

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer are hard acts to follow, especially when you're No. 3 in the software giant's hierarchy.

See news story:
Belluzzo out at Microsoft in reorganization
Rick Belluzzo tried but failed. Despite being Microsoft's president and chief operating officer, and in theory able to wield enormous power and influence, Belluzzo could not overcome the combined force of Gates and Ballmer. They--and two other senior executives, Jim Allchin and Jeff Raikes--are the real powers in Microsoft, although there are seven core businesses: Windows client, knowledge worker, server and tools, business solutions, CE/mobility, MSN, and home and entertainment.

Belluzzo was apparently deeply involved in the discussions and planning around the reorganization within the company that resulted in his job becoming redundant. In a press release, the company says Belluzzo will "transition out of his role...on May 1, although he will continue to work at the company through September to ensure a smooth transition."

There are no plans to replace Belluzzo, who arrived at Microsoft in September 1999 as a group vice president, rising quickly to become president and COO. Previously, he had been with SGI, and before that Hewlett-Packard, where he was highly regarded. But requirements for success at HP and Microsoft are different. Belluzzo's style was a better fit at HP than at Microsoft, where it was hard to see his soft-spoken manner having much effect.

Belluzzo managed many of Microsoft's high-profile consumer products and services, including MSN, Xbox and interactive TV. He may be taking the blame for the lackluster performance of many of the consumer projects, such as Microsoft TV.

A project Belluzzo did have considerable success with is Xbox, although a lot of the praise seems to have fallen to the general manager of the Xbox project, J. Allard. While Allard was undoubtedly instrumental, Belluzzo guided the project to success. However, with few accomplishments under his belt, his removal was not unexpected.

(For a related commentary on Rick Belluzzo, see gartner.com.)

Entire contents, Copyright © 2002 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.