Jim Ewel, a 12-year Microsoft employee who most recently handled product marketing of Windows 2000 Server, is the latest executive to defect.
The timing of Ewel's departure is significant. Industry watchers have said they believe corporate sales of Windows 2000, especially on the server side, have not been as robust as expected.
Microsoft launched Windows 2000 on Feb. 17, 2000. The company has promised several times over the past few months to release sales numbers for Windows 2000 Server but has not yet done so.
A Microsoft representative said Ewel announced internally in November his plans to retire. Ewel's official last day with the company was Dec. 22. The representative added that Microsoft was in search of a replacement.
Ewel said his official final day in the office would be Jan. 15. He said he decided to leave for personal and family reasons and was planning to take six to nine months off before looking for another job.
When asked if alleged Windows marketing problems had anything to do with his departure, Ewel responded, "Marketing at Microsoft is going through some changes right now. I don't have any more to say than that. The place was good to me for a lot of years. It was hard for me to leave."
The former vice president of Windows server marketing, Ewel joined Microsoft in 1989. He first worked as an enterprise sales manager in Chicago. He also did a stint as SQL Server group product manager. From 1994 to 1995, he was responsible for Windows NT Server and BackOffice product marketing.
Ewel was instrumental in the launches of Windows NT Server 3.5 and 3.51. He also oversaw the team at Microsoft charged with preparing competitive responses to rivals' technologies, including offerings from Sun Microsystems, Oracle and various Linux vendors. Microsoft has removed Ewel's biography page from the corporate Web site.
Ewel is the latest of a growing number of Microsoft executives to leave the company. In the past year alone, a number of top Microsoft executives have resigned, including vice president of developer marketing Tod Neilsen, chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold, former Interactive Media Group chief Pete Higgins, and Windows Group vice president Paul Maritz.
One former Microsoft insider said Microsoft's top brass is unhappy with how Windows 2000 has been marketed, resulting in some "corporate housecleaning."
"It's time for a little shakeup on the Windows team," said the former insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "They did a crappy job of marketing Windows 2000."
But the problems go deeper, the insider continued. "Nobody wants to work on the Windows team inside Microsoft anymore. There are lots of open positions. And Windows is still one of the most important products for the company's success."
Microsoft is slated to discuss its Windows 2000 sales, among other topics, when it announces its fiscal second-quarter earnings Jan. 18. In December, Microsoft issued a warning that both its fiscal second-quarter and fiscal-year 2001 sales would fall short of its original estimates, both by about 5 percent.
As a result of Ewel's departure, Microsoft lacks a Windows marketing champion. Group vice president Jim Allchin, who returned from a several-month sabbatical in September, is continuing to oversee Windows development. Allchin is focusing his energies on Microsoft's next-generation Windows release, code-named Whistler Personal, said Microsoft executives. Senior vice president Brian Valentine, Allchin's right-hand man, is charged with pushing ahead on Whistler server development.