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Mozilla CEO exits just as Firefox mobiles roll out

Two years a long stint in Mozilla time

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Mozilla's chief executive is stepping down amid a re-positioning of the managerial brass after barely two years into a mission to take Firefox mobile.

Gary Kovacs, appointed Mozilla's third CEO in November 2010, will vacate his position "later this year" with the Firefox shop now beginning a search for a brand-new chief executive.

Mozilla said Kovacs had accomplished the goals and objectives he and his team had set out to achieve. Kovacs will remain a member of Mozilla's board of directors.

According to Mozilla Foundation chair, now exec chair Mitchell Baker, Kovacs was hired to help the group make a "dramatic pivot" from the desktop browser into mobile. She reckons he helped sharpen Mozilla's focus on commercial partners.

Baker listed Mozilla's achievements since Kovacs' arrival as including: the launch of Firefox OS with commitments from more than 20 partners to bring devices to market; the release of Mozilla's HTML5 app store; and the creation of a "global, operational structure" to support market growth. According to Baker:

Gary's leadership during this period has helped us build on the strong foundation to make these changes, and to bring that strength into the mobile environment. Gary has reinvigorated our focus on working with commercial partners, a trait that was central in Mozilla's early life but less so during the Firefox desktop era.

When he was hired in late 2010, there was no hint from Baker this was to be a short-term appointment.

He came to Mozilla having served as senior vice president of markets, solutions and products at Sybase; as general manager and vice president of mobile and devices at Adobe; and as vice president of product marketing at Macromedia. He's also served 10 years at IBM, where he headed up the software group's product management, sales, marketing and operations.

Baker said she reckoned Mozilla is now ready for the next phase in its mission: to keep the internet free as more people come online. Responsibility for mobile is now being handed to Li Gong, who has been appointed senior vice president of mobile devices. Li was a former general manager of Microsoft's MSN business in China and vice president of Microsoft China's R&D Group.

In other changes announced Thursday, senior vice president of products Jay Sullivan has been named chief operating officer. Harvey Anderson, formerly head of mobile and strategic partnerships, public policy, and legal affairs becomes senior vice president of business and legal affairs. ®

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