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.

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