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October 5, 2007

Microsoft drafts Rick Thompson to run Zune

Posted by David Hunter at 11:05 AM ET.

The pixels were barely cool from the Zune 2 announcement press releases, when Microsoft named Rick Thompson as the new head of the Zune business reporting to J Allard. Thompson is currently the corporate vice president of the Windows Live Advertising and Monetization Platforms, but he is an old Allard crony:

Thompson first worked with Allard on the original Xbox business. Allard knocked on his door, pitching a game console business that Thompson had also been considering. Several of their early Xbox cohorts are already on the Zune team, making Thompson’s new gig all the more appealing. “We’re getting the gang back together,” Allard says. And he believes that Zune is in much the same position as Xbox was in its early days—a largely dismissed laggard to industry leader, Sony’s PlayStation 2. Now, Xbox 360 leads Sony’s PlayStation 3.

Thompson left Microsoft in 2000, for a stint at Internet startup Go2Net, where he was chief financial officer and vice-president of product development. When he returned to Microsoft in 2002, he led the division that oversaw development of the operating system software for Windows Media Center and the Tablet computers. And most recently, he worked in the company’s online advertising unit.

The buttoned-down Thompson says he’ll defer to Allard on product design and direction while he focuses on business strategy. “The vision and cool will continue to come from J,” Thompson says. “No one would ever confuse me with being cool.” But Thompson’s track record suggests that his operational expertise is exactly what Zune needs right now.

While the Zune undoubtedly could use additional operational expertise, more cool would have an even bigger impact on the bottom line.

Filed under Argo, Executives, J Allard, Microsoft, Zune

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