RealTime IT News

Executive Veteran Departure at Microsoft Raises Eyebrows

Hard on the heels of several top executive departures, Brad Chase, a longstanding Microsoft Corp. veteran who helped roll-out and tweak the software giant's Internet services, is leaving his position.

Curiously, Chase's departure comes at a time when the company is formulating its strategy to contest America Online's position as a top tier Internet player and predominant messaging service choice for users.

Early this morning, The Wall Street Journal reported that Chase, who commandeered Microsoft's MSN Internet businesses as senior vice president, planned to "pursue some new challenges," according to information contained in an internal MS e-mail sent from CEO Richard Ballmer to employees.

By press time, MS executives could not be reached for comment.

The Journal also reported that the e-mail conveyed information concerning other organizational changes at the company, including the relocation of some of Microsoft's MSN Internet businesses -- such as its Web-searching and browsing functions -- to other development groups.

As a part of the staff restructuring, Yusuf Mehdi, a Microsoft vice president, will take over Chase's responsibilities over MSN businesses.

In the wake of his departure, Chase is credited with priming MSN to become the most visited network of Web sites both in the U.S. and abroad.

In today's article reported by the WSJ, all browser work at the company would be handled by one team, in place of separate groups, to work on Internet Explorer and parts of the new MSN Explorer software launched last year.

During his tenure with MS, Chase supervised the launch of the company's Windows 95 product and its controversial Internet Explorer, which beat the test of time to lure users to its service and wound browser adversary Netscape.

But the company continues to wage a battle of words in a federal antitrust case brought by the government, which says the company unfairly secured customers to its services by tying the Explorer browser to its Windows operating system. The case remains under appeal.

Recently, the company was again forced to fend off user vitriol. Last week debates raged on discussion lists, which claimed the company's Passport product's terms of use policy was an infringement on copyright law.

Internet.com reported that MS planned to "update" an agreement which required customers to grant Microsoft and its affiliated companies permission to use anything a user brought with them to a site. In an interview at the time, a MS spokesperson played down the charges and said users should judge MS "on the privacy statement on Microsoft.com, which would override anything ..."

Whether or not the various legalities plaguing the embattled company sent Chase packing is up for debate.

In the past two years, several top executives have left the company for various reasons, including the savory notion of an early retirement funded by cashed-in stock options. Former CEO Bob Herbold retired in February, and Paul Maritz, a group vice president, left in September.