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Wanted: MS Mac chief

Non-smoker; diplomatic skills, thick hide an advantage

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Want to apply for the most thankless job in the world? There's a vacancy to head Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit. Kevin Browne, who led the team for three years and was at the unit for six, is moving to the Xbox division.

He leaves the team in much better shape than when he joined, when the air was still thick with smoke after a decade of legal gunfire between Apple and Microsoft. Although it's an anathema in the Macintosh community to give The Beast of Redmond credit for anything, the quality of the software has - barring some high profile exceptions - is much improved.

As the biggest Mac software developer, Browne oversaw the transition to Mac OS X - and in effect the MacBU was the biggest bug-hunter for Apple development tools and its APIs. Over six years the Mac market share has fallen, making Browne's business case more difficult. But he has succeeded in differentiating the Mac line.

With its auction support and scrapbook, Internet Explorer is much more attractive than its Windows counterpart. In Entourage, we finally have a Microsoft PIM with some taste and flair: it doesn't look like a committee of bureaucrats designed it. And with its ability to link documents to PIM items, it could surprise us all.

The flagship applications could use with some performance tuning on OS X: IE 5.x is buggy and slow, but the team knows this, and is undertaking a substantial rewrite.

We were merciless about the MacBU's failure to support Hebrew, Arabic and other languages, or even allow third parties to implement the support. Hopefully, with the support now in Jaguar, Browne's successor will find it easier to justify.

Browne went on sabbatical over the summer, and this ominous news usually means a manager is quitting. But we're very glad Browne's staying. ®

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