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MS reorg downscales Millennium as focus shifts to CE

Consumer Windows Division falls to Allchin, Cole shifts to Belluzzo's Group

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Microsoft president Steve Ballmer reinvented a reinvention earlier today, and Redmond-watchers can safely conclude that this latest reorganisation of Microsoft's High Command comes perilously close to winding up the Millennium consumer Windows project. Consumer Windows, it now seems likely, will be making its debut instead on the CE platform. The big winners from today's reorganisation are Jim Allchin, custodian of the Microsoft Windows Empire, and Bob Muglia, heading the Business Productivity Group. Big loser is the Consumer Windows Division, which is no more, and that's a crack Millennium seems destined to vanish down. Exquisitely, the Consumer Windows Division was formed in March of this year when Ballmer announced "a sweeping reorganisation, designed to refocus the company on the needs of customers." Referring back to that reorg without going into the detail, Steve now tells us: "Today's moves build upon and accelerate the reinvention of Microsoft announced earlier this year by deepening our bench of management talent." Deep-sixed on the bench of management talent, apparently, is David Cole, who was running Consumer Windows, but has now been promoted to senior VP and made head of the Consumer Services Division, one of seven divisions which will report to Rick Belluzzo. Belluzzo was head of the Consumer and Commerce Group, but this has now been "renamed and realigned" as the Consumer Group. The chopping-off of the commerce bit would seem to suggest that at least some of this function is now seen as more appropriate in Muglia's Business Productivity Group, but Belluzzo still seems to have plenty of other balls to keep in the air. Despite the promotion, Cole's new job doesn't immediately look like an automatic route to stardom. The Consumer Services Division's mission, it says here, "is to provide an intuitive and empowering consumer experience, world-class communication and collaboration services, and high-quality Internet access that consumers need to access the Everyday Web [note the caps - do we see a TM coming on?] any time, anywhere, and on any device." But it's not necessarily the lead-filled sock behind the ear the words make it sound like. Belluzzo has been demonstrating the forthcoming MSN Web Companion, a simple, CE-based Web (OK, MSN) access device that'll tie in nicely with combination hardware and access deals along the lines of the one Microsoft has with Tandy. Consumer Services will be running in parallel with John DeVaan's TV Services and Platform Business within the Consumer Group, and these two are the most appropriate units for dealing with consumer access devices and the associated software. Which brings us to a thought The Register has been mulling for a few weeks now. This year we've seen the Millennium consumer Windows initiative downscaled from a projected radical rewrite to little more than a service pack. The latest reorganisation quite possibly signals that it has now arrived completely in service pack land, despite the release of Beta 2 towards the end of last month. With the removal of Millennium from the consumer fray, and with the next (traditional) Windows-based consumer project, Neptune, still a couple of years down the trail, there's a consumer hole which could usefully be filled by CE. Coincidentally (?) Microsoft started noising around earlier this week that future versions of CE devices would instead be sold as "Windows Powered." Producing the fabled legacy-free OS out of CE, which doesn't have much legacy anyway, is surely going to be a lot easier than doing so from Windows 9x, which is full of the stuff, so go figure. It's at times like this you miss the subpoenaed emails, but the likelihood is that Allchin has had a lot to do with the short and sad independent life of the Consumer Windows Division. Despite trial-related butterfingers incidents, Allchin is the safe pair of hands that's been ushering Win2k to RTM, and official custodian of all things Windows. He's now got the consumer Windows efforts firmly back in his fiefdom, and can major on further development based on Win2k, downplaying the old two-track development route. But presumably Allchin will have a think about how games players are to be supported before he kills off 9x entirely. Belluzzo is also likely to have been influential in the moves, in that he needed more appliance-like platforms for his consumer efforts, but didn't obviously need the more overtly PC aspects of Millennium. As far as delivering email plus some Web browsing to the kitchen table, CE no doubt fits his bill admirably. ®

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