Microsoft Web head quits

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

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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