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High-Profile Developer Jumps the Windows Live Ship

A recent high-profile Microsoft hire, brought onboard to work on Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie's Windows Live vision, has suddenly announced his pending departure, citing a pullback on plans he had signed on to implement.

"The launch of Windows Live and Ray Ozzie's vision of Internet services disruption made me believe Microsoft was serious about the space and not being left behind in yet another emerging industry as they had been with the Web browser and search," San Francisco-based developer Niall Kennedy said in a blog post this week.

Kennedy joined Microsoft's Windows Live group in April to be a program manager on the project to build "an online platform for syndication technologies including RSS and Atom."

His post and his departure offer a brief peek inside the daily tribulations of Microsoft's risky bet on software as a service (SaaS) initiative, dubbed Windows Live. In his post, his frustration is palpable.

"Windows Live is under some heavy change, reorganization, pullback and general paralysis, and unfortunately my ability to perform, hire and execute was completely frozen as well," Kennedy's post continued.

According to his online resume, Kennedy was instrumental in the development of the blog search engine Technorati as well as shopping comparison engines PriceGrabber and NexTag.

Microsoft's goal is to build a "shared central platform for feed syndication into Windows," according to posts on Microsoft's Team RSS (Really Simple Syndication) blog. Such a platform could help assure Windows' continuing relevance as an essential computing technology going forward, even as Microsoft's Live services take off -- that is, if they take off.

For instance, Ozzie's Live Clipboard uses RSS to provide syndication. Building that technology deeper into Windows will help Vista and its follow-ons such as Vienna become the gateways to those services. Outlook 2007 will provide an RSS reader integrated into the mail client.

Although Kennedy voiced his enthusiasm when he first joined up last spring, negative reactions by the stock markets to the company's plans to spend "$2 billion more than anticipated…to cover new costs [for the Live initiative] including over 10,000 new hires over the last fiscal year" led to drastic budget cuts internally, he said.

"I was able to borrow resources here and there, but there was no team being built around the platform in the foreseeable future. I could have stayed at Microsoft, waited for the other 85 percent of the company to ship their products, and then hope support for my group might be back on track again, but I didn't want to sit around doing little to nothing until Vista, Office and Exchange ship. It's easier to get funding outside Microsoft than inside at the moment, so I am stepping out and doing my own thing," Kennedy said.

Therefore, Kennedy said, he is leaving to start up a venture of his own. His last day at Microsoft is Aug. 18.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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