Bach, Allard out at Microsoft

Two of the most visible faces in Microsoft’s entertainment
and devices division are leaving the company. Microsoft today announced the
departure of president Robbie Bach and chief experience officer J Allard.

Bach is retiring after 22 years with the company effective this fall. He has headed the entertainment and devices division since its inception five years ago and is a regular presence at major Microsoft press events. Allard, the driving force behind the Xbox and Zune media player, is leaving, but will remain as an advisor to CEO Steve Ballmer.

Allard’s departure had been rumored for several days. He has
been on sabbatical since Microsoft ceased work on its Courier PC tablet, which Allard
was spearheading. Bach, though, has been touted as a possible successor for
Ballmer, and his departure has shocked the tech world.

“I have worked with Robbie during his entire tenure at
Microsoft, and count him as both a friend and a great business partner and
leader. Robbie has always had great timing, and is going out on a high note,”
said Ballmer in a staff memo.

The division has been under fire lately, though, due to its
failures to gain ground in the mobile space. Apple and Google have regularly
taken market share away from Microsoft as smartphones have become more
prevalent. That has reportedly caused some rancor within the company. The
coming launch of Windows Mobile 7 is seen as the company’s most aggressive move
yet to remain relevant in the mobile market in the coming years.

The Xbox unit, though, has shaped up nicely after losing
billions in its early days. Now profitable, it has a firm lead over Sony’s
PlayStation 3 in the gaming space. The coming launch of a motion sensor device dubbed
“Project Natal” is widely expected to give the console another boost.

Don Mattrick, who heads the Xbox unit (formally known as
Microsoft’s interactive entertainment business) and Andy Lees, head of the
division’s mobile arm, will report directly to Ballmer effective July 1

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