May 25, 2010 8:16 pm

Bach departs amid Microsoft shake-up

Microsoft on Tuesday announced that Robbie Bach, its longest-serving top executive and head of its entertainment and devices division, would leave the group.

The move comes as Steve Ballmer, chief executive, continues to centralise his control over a number of the group’s most important but struggling operations.

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Along with the departure of J Allard, who had been seen as one of the most prominent rising stars and another executive listed by Microsoft as among its 18 top leaders, the move signals a shake-up after a period in which the company has fallen behind Apple and Google in the smartphone business.

The software group depicted the departure of Mr Bach, 48, as a retirement.

It said that Mr Allard, 41, who had held the title of chief experience officer as well as chief technology officer in Mr Bach’s division, would continue in a new long-term role as an adviser to Mr Ballmer.

The shake-up will leave the heads of the Xbox and mobile software businesses, who had worked for Mr Bach, reporting to Mr Ballmer instead, in a move that the company characterised as a new long-term management arrangement.

That echoes the shake-up that followed the departure of Kevin Johnson, formerly head of the Windows and search businesses.

Each of those operations now reports directly to the chief executive. The changes have left Mr Ballmer with direct responsibility for both internet search and mobile software – businesses in which Microsoft has lost ground to Google and Apple.

Mr Bach, a former executive in the Office division, rose to prominence at Microsoft after being put in charge of its attack on the video game market.

He led the development of the Xbox, eventually riding that success to become head of a broader consumer devices business.

Mr Allard rose to prominence in the mid-1990s after contributing to an internal memo to co-founder Bill Gates warning of the disruption Microsoft faced from the internet.

He went on to lead the launch of the Zune music player, which won plaudits for its technology and design but failed to make a dent against Apple’s iPod. More recently he has been in charge of devising other new gadgets for Mr Bach’s division, including the Courier, a prototype of a two-screen tablet computer that Microsoft recently scrapped.

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