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Microsoft Developer Division Loses Another Chief

So, Jason Zander is following Scott Guthrie over to Azure. Zander, formerly Corporate Vice President of the Visual Studio engineering team, is moving from DevDiv to partner up with the cool new kid on the block, Windows Azure (as the estimable Mary Jo Foley reports).

Foley received an emailed statement from Microsoft, laying out the changes. It read, in part:

"With Visual Studio 2012 and .NET 4.5 now available and as we begin to work on future versions of Visual Studio and offerings, this is the right time to make organizational changes ... As part of the recent STB (Server and Tools Business) organizational changes, Jason Zander effectively began his transition to a new role leading the Windows Azure development team."

Is this a blow to Microsoft's Developer Division? Two heavyweights on the Visual Studio team leaving within 16 months of each other, for the same new home? The reality is that it remains to be seen what effect this will have on Visual Studio, the product, going forward.

If Zander was going to leave, this was certainly the time to do it. Visual Studio 2012 and the .NET Framework 4.5 were officially launched last week. Those products are the first to really address the move to mobile and Windows 8 which, to use the over-used term, is truly a bet-the-company strategy for Microsoft. No one wants to leave in the middle of the iteration.

And Corporate Vice President S. Somasegar, who still heads DevDiv, is quite capable. More and more lately, he's become the public face of the division, and his enthusiasm and love for development, and the developer community, comes across in interviews.

But Zander, and before him Guthrie, were equally brilliant and creative. Azure's come a long way already, in Guthrie's short tenure. He and Zander are good at understanding what their customers want and need. It's hard to replace that kind of firepower.

I don't see this as any kind of sign, however, that DevDiv's starting to get short shrift from Redmond. If anything, developers have never been more important, and Visual Studio's never been more important. The platform ecosystem has never been broader, and Microsoft's welcoming the open-source community more warmly than any time in its past. Smartphones and tablets give developers opportunities undreamt-of even a decade ago, and software innovation is peaking. Microsoft is desperate, as it should be, to get developers working on Windows 8.

At the same time, the cloud is growing fast, too. And Microsoft's presence is as iffy there as it is in mobile. Azure needs to succeed for Microsoft; adding talent like Jason Zander and Scott Guthrie gives it the best chance to do that. Visual Studio's rolling along like a tank, while Azure's still in its toddler years -- at best. Now it has even more guidance.

Posted by Keith Ward on 09/18/2012

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