Microsoft loses veteran GM to Google

Tech evangelist Vic Gundotra jumps ship in latest personnel migration from software giant to search stalwart

A Microsoft Corp. technology evangelist has left after 15 years with the company to go work for archrival Google Inc., continuing a string of high-profile personnel changes at Microsoft this month.

Vic Gundotra, Microsoft's general manager for platform evangelism, will join Google in a year in order to comply with a non-compete clause in his Microsoft contract, the companies confirmed separately. In the meantime, Gundotra will keep busy doing philanthropic work.

Google hasn't yet decided what role Gundotra will play after joining the company. "He has a broad range of skills and experience which we believe will be valuable to Google," Google spokesman Steve Langdon said via e-mail.

Meanwhile, Microsoft wasted little time finding a replacement. Steve Cellini, who has worked in the same group for a long time, will take over Gundotra's job, said Tom Pilla, a Microsoft spokesman.

Gundotra's job was to reach out to external developers and encourage them to write more applications for Microsoft's platforms, Pilla said. "We appreciate Vic's contributions to Microsoft and we wish him well," Pilla said.

Although executives jump ship regularly in the IT industry, Google and Microsoft have a particularly long track record in this regard. The companies sued each other last year after Google hired Kai-Fu Lee to head its China operations. At the time, Lee was corporate vice president of Microsoft's Natural Interactive Services Division.

The acrimonious legal fight lasted almost six months, until the companies settled the matter out of court. It didn't end soon enough to prevent the world from learning how much it can irk Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer to lose employees to Google. Ballmer threw a chair and cursed Google and its CEO Eric Schmidt out loud upon finding out that top engineer Mark Lucovsky was resigning to join the rival company. Ballmer later said the incident, as described by Lucovsky in a deposition for the Lee case, was a "gross exaggeration" and inaccurate.

Last week, Martin Taylor, corporate vice president for Microsoft's Windows Live and MSN marketing, abruptly left the company under mysterious circumstances. The departure set tongues wagging because it was so unexpected and because of Taylor's high rank and close relationship with Ballmer.

Earlier this month, Robert Scoble, another technology evangelist and probably Microsoft's most well-known blogger, resigned to join a podcasting startup company. Because Scoble's blog was so widely read in the industry and because he had been such a public Microsoft advocate, his departure attracted intense media attention and was generally seen as a big loss for the company.

And of course, this month Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates sent shockwaves through the IT industry and business world in general when he announced he was passing on his chief software architect hat to Ray Ozzie, then the company's chief technology officer. That is part of a transition that will see Gates move full-time in 2008 to the charity organization he runs with his wife.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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