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Silverberg to return in MS split into four divisions

The mystery man's 19 month sabbatical may be drawing to a close

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MS on Trial Microsoft president Steve Ballmer is set to announce a shake-up that will reorganise the company into four divisions and see the return of Brad Silverberg, a pivotal - but so far largely silent - figure in the events being covered by the antitrust trial. Silverberg headed development of Windows 95, but has been on extended leave of absence since June 1997. With the reorganisation, reported in the Seattle Times, Ballmer is making his mark on the company, perhaps with one eye on what might happen if Microsoft loses the court case. He is reported to be planning to set up four customer-focused groups, consumer, enterprise, developers and knowledge workers. The consumer group, likely to be headed by Silverberg, would cover Windows and Internet, enterprise would deal with large business customers, developers would handle the company's developer relations and knowledge workers would target home office and small office. There have been many advocates of splitting the company into at least separate platforms and applications companies, but current legal thinking tends to be against such splitting. But if it were to occur, the courts would not necessarily be influenced by any change that Microsoft had itself undertaken. It is certain that whatever the outcome of the present case, despite many reports, no fine will be imposed on Microsoft as this is precluded under the terms of the DoJ and states' Complaint (and would have given the right for a jury trial). Strangely enough Silverberg's group would cover interactive media, which was headed by Pete Higgins until he went on extended leave last year. Silverberg's long absence is apparently because he was peeved that he was not offered a significant promotion after his work on Windows 95. Jim Allchin might head the enterprise group, which suggests that Paul Maritz could end up as some kind of technical supremo overlooking all the groups - unless he too is feeling burnt out and wants a leave of absence. In February last year, in the midst of a previous phase of the current trial, work on Internet Explorer was hastily merged into the Windows group in order that Microsoft could look more consistent with its story that Windows 98 was one product. It appears that final decisions have not yet been made, but Microsoft is likely to want the changes to be made swiftly, now that they have leaked, to stop speculation that they are related to the trial. ®

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