Microsoft names Belluzzo to head internet unit

In a move it hopes will strengthen its position in Internet services, Microsoft yesterday announced that Richard Belluzzo will head the software giant's online Consumer and Commerce Group.

Microsoft President Steve Ballmer said Belluzzo, the former chief executive officer of Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI), will be group vice president for the division, which includes the Microsoft Network (MSN), Microsoft's Web site, and WebTV.

Belluzzo, who left SGI last month, will report directly to Ballmer. Two Microsoft executives appointed in March to jointly manage Internet operations, Brad Chase and Jon DeVaan, will report to Belluzzo. Chase and DeVaan will be senior vice presidents.

The move will mark a concerted effort to move MSN, now the No. 3 Website, ahead of top-ranked America Online and second-place Yahoo, Ballmer said. "We've got a lot of good momentum, but we're not No. 1 or No. 2," he said.

The arrival of Belluzzo brings management experience to the group's efforts to expand Microsoft's Web presence, Ballmer said. "About six months ago, we appointed Brad and Jon (to manage the Consumer and Commerce Group), but when we made the move we agreed we would continue to look for other talent to complete the team," Ballmer said.

Belluzzo's experience overseeing the reorganisation of SGI earlier this year, and as a former top executive at Hewlett-Packard, should give depth to the team, Ballmer said.

"We've hit the ground running with a strategy," he said. "Our focus is on TV in addition to the PC as a place of core interactively on the Internet," he said.

Belluzzo declined to go into details about Microsoft's plans for MSN or WebTV. Ballmer also refused to elaborate on a strategy.

Also today, Amazon.com announced that Ben Slivka, who had been a general manager in Microsoft's Consumer and Commerce Group, is now Amazon's director of technology.

Slivka became the latest of several Microsoft executives to leave the company. John Ludwig, head of Microsoft's MSN Access operations, and Nathan Myhrvold, chief technology officer, said earlier this year they were taking leaves of absence. Last December, Pete Higgins left his position as head of the company's interactive media group to take an extended leave.

The losses are natural in any competitive company, Ballmer said. "This is a tough business we're in," he said. "For whatever set of reasons, if it's not right for somebody, they should leave. We've got a good team with great ability and talented people coming from outside."

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