Microsoft's J Allard, Robbie Bach to Leave Company

In what is the Xbox division's biggest shake-up since original management team members including Ed Fries and Seamus Blackley left the company in 2004, Microsoft has today revealed that two individuals that many gamers are used to seeing reference to, Robbie Bach and J Allard, will be leaving the company this fall.

Bach, who served as the president of the Entertainment and Devices division, under which the Xbox 360, Windows Mobile, Zune, and other devices lived, will be retiring this fall. In a press release issued this morning, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer stated, "For the past 22 years, Robbie has personified creativity, innovation and drive. With this spirit, he has led a division passionately devoted to making Microsoft successful in interactive entertainment and mobility," Ballmer said. "Robbie's an amazing business person and close personal friend, which makes his departure a point of sadness for me. However, given the strong leadership team he has built, the business performance of E&D this year and the launches of Windows Phone 7 and 'Project Natal' this fall, we are set up well for success as we continue to drive our mobile and entertainment businesses forward."

Bach isn't slated to be replaced at his senior level, instead it was announced that Senior Vice President Don Mattrick will continue to lead the Interactive Entertainment Business and Senior Vice President Andy Lees will continue to lead the Mobile Communications Business. Each will report directly to CEO Steve Ballmer effective July 1.

J Allard, was most recently the senior vice president of Design and Development for Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices division, but most of us know him best for his role during the launch of the Xbox 360 when he was a big proponent of the importance of social networking and online functionality. Microsoft announced that Allard will be leaving Microsoft after 19 years of service, and will take an official role as an advisor in a strategic role for Ballmer and his leadership team.

Allard told Seattle-based tech news site TechFlash that he doesn't plan to go and work for any Microsoft rivals, notably Apple or Google. Instead, he told them that he wanted to spend more time pursuing his personal interests, notably adventure sports.

"J has brought a game-changing creative magic to Microsoft for years, from Windows to Xbox, from Zune to KIN," Ballmer said. "He was one of the key drivers in our early work on the Web, and we're absolutely delighted that J's role with the company will evolve in a way that lets all of Microsoft benefit from his business insight, technical depth and keen eye for consumer experience."

Both Allard and Bach have worked closely together for many years, but in statements made to TechFlash both noted that their decisions were unrelated. The pair leave the company in far better shape than it has been previously, having previously weathered billions of dollars in losses during the launch phase of the Xbox initiative. Their departure comes as the Entertainment and Devices division is about to embark on a new phase with more integration across devices than we've previously seen from Microsoft. Xbox, Zune, and Windows Mobile 7 are all closely linked together with social functionality inspired by the work that both have shepherded during the evolution of Xbox Live.

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