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Departing Ballmer shakes up Microsoft's top engineering boffins

Old dog to perform new tricks as master leaves

Steve Ballmer

Steve Ballmer has shuffled some Microsoft top boffins around, using his closing days as CEO to cement his massive summer re-org.

Harry Shum, Bing engineering chief and ex Microsoft Research managing director for Asia, has been named executive vice president of technology and research.

Shum replaces Eric Rudder who has been shifted to a newly created position of executive vice president advanced strategy. Rudder’s position was used to tighten the link between Microsoft Research and Microsoft’s product operations.

In a memo announcing the change, Ballmer said of Shum: “He is uniquely positioned to drive exceptional forward-thinking research that pushes the frontiers of computer science, while also driving impactful technology transfer through deep connections with our business teams.”

Rudder will be responsible for leading “key, cross-company technology initiatives.”

Both executives will report to Ballmer – for now, until he goes. Bing engineers who previously reported to Shim will now report to Bing chief Qi Lu on an interim basis.

Changes take effect from the middle of next month.

Putting Shum in Rudder’s old position sounds like a swapping out of the old guard to turn Microsoft into a company capable of harnessing innovation and turning Microsoft into more of a web and devices player. That was, after all, supposed to be the reason for this summer's break up of the existing product-group silos and embrace a less rigid structure that fostered innovation under a new "one Microsoft" operation.

That swapping of the old guard this week has seen Internet Explorer chief Dean Hachamovitch moved out with Windows Phone program management and design vice president Joe Belfiore adding IE to his roster of duties.

A Microsoft veteran, Rudder joined the company in the early 1990s. He served in numerous positions that included head of Trustworthy Computing, the Technology Policy Group, Server and Tools, platform evangelism and Visual Studio.

Rudder’s name was once dropped as possible successor to Ballmer and Bill Gates, leading the company.

But from being a high-profile player Rudder stayed on the tech side and went behind the scenes to work on skunkworks projects such as stealth operating system Midori.

Shum joined Microsoft Research in 1996 working on computer vision and graphics. He moved to Beijing in 1999 to help start Microsoft Research China, re-named Microsoft Research Asia, where he became managing director.

He holds more than 50 US patents and has published papers on computer vision, computer graphics, pattern recognition, statistical learning, and robotics.

Shum's new role suggests Ballmer wants someone with an engineering and research eye as a point man at the intersection of research and products. His recent involvement with Bing suggests Microsoft wants a techie tuned to the integration of web search and online services with Windows devices. ®

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