I read a number of news stories last week about Microsoft hiring a former exec from Ask.com to run MSN. A number of these news sources and corresponding blog posts got the story wrong in one way or the other
In her news story entitled Former Ask.com president will join Microsoft Kim Peterson of the Seattle Times wrote
Microsoft has hired the former president of search rival Ask.com
to run its online business group, overseeing the MSN and Windows Live
units and playing a big role in the company's move to the Web.
In the Reuters news story entitled Microsoft hires CEO of Ask.com to head Web unit it states
Software giant Microsoft Corp. said on Friday it hired away Steve Berkowitz, the chief executive of rival Internet company Ask.com, to head Microsoft's own Internet business.
In her blog post entitled CEO of Ask.com moves to Microsoft Charlene Li of Forrester Research wrote
Most importantly, Microsoft is taking a very important step in putting ALL of the hot consumer products under one team. Live.com is at the core of Microsoft's turnaround -- it represents fast development cycles and a totally new approach to addressing the marketplace. At the same time, Microsoft can't turn its back on the advertising juggernaut of MSN.com. In the past year, there's been uncertainty about how MSN.com and Live.com will work together. Having them all come together under Steve will be a first step in addressing the concerns of the MSN.com group while maintaining Live.com's momentum.
Highlighted in red are statements which are at best misleading. I'm not singling out the above news publications and bloggers, almost every article or blog post I read about Steve Berkowitz being hired gave the same misleading impression.
Why are they misleading? That's easy. Let's go back to the Microsoft press release Microsoft Realigns Platforms & Services Division for Greater Growth and Agility which breaks out Microsoft's internet business into the following three pieces
Windows and Windows Live GroupWindows Live Platform Group
With Sinofsky in charge,
the Windows and Windows Live Group will have engineering teams focused
on delivering Windows and engineering teams focused on delivering the
Windows Live experiences. Sinofsky will work closely with Microsoft CTO
Ray Ozzie and Blake Irving to support Microsoft’s services strategy
across the division and company.
Blake Irving will lead the
newly formed Windows Live Platform Group, which unites a number of MSN
teams that have been building platform services and capabilities for
Microsoft’s online offerings. This group provides the back-end
infrastructure services, platform capabilities and global operational
support for services being created in Windows Live, Office Live, and
other Microsoft and third-party applications that use the Live
platform. This includes the advertising and monetization platforms that
support all Live service offerings.
Online Business Group
The new Online Business Group
includes advertising sales, business development and marketing for Live
Platforms, Windows Live and MSN — including MSN.com, MSNTV and MSN
Internet Access. David Cole, senior vice president, will lead this
group until his successor is named before his leave of absence at the
end of April.
That's right, three pieces each with it's own corporate vice president. So Charlene Li isn't quite right when she says that MSN.com and Live.com are now aligned under Steve Berkowitz. Instead what's being aligned under him is the business development and marketing for both sites. The platform that powers Live.com should be under Blake Irving while the actual website development is under Steven Sinofsky.
I'm sure that makes as much sense to you as it does to me. However according to the press release, this organizational structure will increase Microsoft's agility in delivering innovation to customers.
I can't wait.