Microsoft shuffles Platforms Group executives

Microsoft has merged the parts of its organization that deal with Windows servers, developers and storage, a move that has analysts divided on its significance.

The Developer and Platform Evangelism, Windows Server System and Enterprise Storage and Management units will be combined, Microsoft said in a statement. All three units are part of the Platforms Group, a key branch in Microsoft's organization.

Eric Rudder, the Microsoft senior vice president most recently in charge of the Developer and Platform Evangelism unit, will lead the merged units, Microsoft said. The combination should abolish overlap in development and allow a more centralized focus in business and marketing functions, Microsoft said.

Paul Flessner, the senior vice president who headed up the Windows Server Business, will report to Rudder and manage engineering on SQL Server, Exchange and at Microsoft's eBusiness divisions, the company said. Bob Muglia will remain in charge of storage while reporting to Rudder.

Both Flessner and Muglia previously reported directly to Jim Allchin, the group vice president who oversees the Microsoft Platforms Group. The changes to the organization are immediate, Microsoft said.

Although the shuffle does not give him a new title, Rudder is getting more responsibility. Basically, Flessner is being pushed aside by Rudder, a rising star and Bill Gates protege, said Robert Helm, a research director at Directions on Microsoft Inc., an independent research company in Kirkland, Washington.

"This is a significant change in Microsoft's server business, essentially replacing Flessner, who has co-run the business with Rudder, with Rudder alone," Helm said. "For Flessner this move looks like a demotion."

However, Chris Le Tocq, an analyst with Guernsey Research of Los Altos, California, said the reorganization is a "seasonal" thing at Microsoft and that Flessner has been charged with leading major projects, which is not a demotion. "I would be hard pressed to say that here is a guy who has been placed in a tough spot," Le Tocq said.

Rudder, prior to leading the Developer and Platform Evangelism division, was vice president of Technical Strategy, working directly with Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates on Microsoft’s technical planning processes.

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