What We Can Learn from the Flight of Microsoft Execs to Amazon, AOL, GM, Nokia, Yahoo…and Micro VC

Sometimes all you need to do is look at where former Microsoft executives are going, to piece together some interesting trends in the tech industry.

In recent months, a number of high-profile leaders from very different divisions of the Redmond, WA-based software firm (NASDAQ: MSFT) have departed. This might be true in any given year at a company with roughly 90,000 employees, of course, but what’s interesting here is where these execs are going—and what their moves say about their respective industries. (Also noticeably absent are any publicized moves to hated competitors like Apple, Google, or Oracle.)

I posit that the following six personnel moves say more about the near-term future of industries like mobile, gaming, online services, and automotive than about Microsoft itself, although there might be some intriguing partnerships with Redmond in the works:

—Stephen Elop to Nokia (CEO)

The former president of Microsoft’s business division (and member of Steve Ballmer’s senior leadership team) officially starts as chief executive of Finland-based Nokia (NYSE: NOK) next week. Look for Elop to bring more focus to the U.S. smartphone market, where Nokia has seriously lagged, and for Microsoft and Nokia to work together more closely (and perhaps even merge) to take on Google and Apple in mobile.

—Andre Vrignaud to Amazon (gaming exec)

Microsoft’s former director of game platform strategy, who helped build Xbox Live, is taking on a new, unspecified role at Seattle-based Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN). Presumably it will be to help lead the online retail giant’s emerging efforts in video games and entertainment. In the past few years, Amazon acquired casual game distributor Reflexive Entertainment, and the firm and its CEO Jeff Bezos invested in startups such as Atomic Moguls and Social Gaming Network. Look for Amazon to develop a unique strategy in social gaming as the casual games sector continues to evolve and become more deeply embedded with social media.

—John Matheny to Yahoo (senior VP, communication products and communities)

The former general manager of Windows Phone App Studio (he worked on the ill-fated Kin) has moved on to become senior vice president of Yahoo’s communications products and communities unit. Matheny is the latest in a string of former Microsofties who have joined Silicon Valley-based Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO), including senior product execs Blake Irving and Bill Shaughnessy. What this means … Next Page »

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2 responses to “What We Can Learn from the Flight of Microsoft Execs to Amazon, AOL, GM, Nokia, Yahoo…and Micro VC”

  1. I neglected to mention Bill Veghte, the senior vice president who left Microsoft after 20 years and became HP’s executive VP of software and solutions in the firm’s enterprise business, earlier this year.