Ina Fried at AllThingsD reported earlier today that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had removed Andy Lees as the President of Windows Phone division. Terry Myerson, who has led the engineering effort for Windows Phone 7 and 7.5, will take over Lees’ duties. Ballmer’s memo was later posted on Microsoft’s News Center.
This news comes as surprise to me. Microsoft just completed a successful rollout of the latest Windows Phone update, Windows Phone 7.5 Mango. At the same time, Nokia just started selling their devices in Europe and Asia and are on the cusp of making their highly-anticipated return to the United States. In other words, it is a crucial time for Microsoft’s Windows Phone leadership to ensure the device sales pick up pace and that the boat is not rocked too much.
One way to look at this change is to think that Lees was relived of his duties because he was unable to get Windows Phone sales to a level that could make the platform count. Although, if that were the case, I’d argue that it would be cause for firing him than just moving him out of his leadership role. In this case though, Ballmer has revealed that he is moving Lees to a different position under him, for a time-critical opportunity focused on driving maximum impact in 2012 with Windows Phone and Windows 8. Interesting choice of words. I’ll get back to this point later.
Moving the operations of the division under an engineering person implies Microsoft is now shifting itself to be more engineering-led rather than business/marketing. Back in February 2011, Ballmer had reportedly planned to put more engineering-focused executives in a management shuffle. This move may be in fact be in line with that vision. I like that general realignment strategy because I believe Microsoft needs to get a bit more focused on delivering the vision than just painting the broad strokes.