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Microsoft Web head quits

Higgins departs to spend more time with his family. But I'll be back...

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Pete Higgins, the head of Microsoft's online activities, has quit his post and been given an "extended leave of absence" while a successor is found. News of Higgins' decision emerged after he emailed his staff with details. According to a CNet-quoted interview, Higgins said now is "as good a time as any to take a break" which he intends to spend with his family. Higgins' time off from Microsoft is open-ended -- he said he expects to be away for at least six months, though he also claimed he was "committed" to returning to the company. As VP of Microsoft's Interactive Media Group, a post he has held for two of his 15 years at Microsoft, Higgins has been in charge of the development of MSN and, more recently, the company's attempt to become a leading Web portal. The Group also handles multimedia CD-ROM and games products. Yet analysts claim the Group has lost over $1 billion, which suggests the company's attempts to capitalise on the growth of the online world have largely failed despite some very high-profile manoeuvrings. The Beast of Redmond may want to dominate the Internet, but there's little sign beyond the widespread use of Internet Explorer that it has a real hold on the online community. "We're making great progress [in controlling costs]," said a Microsoft spokesman announcing Higgins temporary departure. Talk of cutting expenses, even when accompanied by claims that revenue is growing, is usually a sign that a company is tackling a part of its business that has run into problems --problems that may have proved too much even for an executive of Higgin's experience. ®

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