Microsoft promotes Muglia, raising post-Ballmer speculation

Questions about pecking order of Microsoft execs, Ballmer-succession plans expected

In a key symbolic move, Microsoft has announced the promotion of a long-serving senior executive whose division has been arguably the company's biggest success story of the past decade.

Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's US$13 billion a year server and tools business, has been promoted to president of the division, according to an internal e-mail sent by CEO Steve Ballmer on Monday.

"The core of our success at Microsoft has always been great people -- people who combine talent, drive, vision, customer focus and leadership. These are the qualities that enable us to see our opportunities clearly and pursue them with persistence and discipline," Ballmer wrote. "Few people at Microsoft embody these qualities more fully than Bob Muglia, and few people have contributed more to the company's success."

The server and tools division sells applications and tools aimed at developers and IT professionals. They include Windows Server, Visual Studio, SQL Server, as well as Microsoft's burgeoning cloud-based enterprise applications.

Microsoft began focusing on the enterprise software market in earnest in the mid-1990s. Today, its enterprise offerings comprise a fifth of the company's sales, and are growing at 18 to 20 percent a year.

Muglia, who has run parts of the servers and tool division's predecessors for more than a decade, has "built a culture of getting things done and done right," Ballmer wrote. "He has championed some of our most important initiatives and helped us successfully face some of our most important competitive challenges."

A 21-year veteran of Microsoft, Muglia will become the company's fourth divisional president, along with Robbie Bach, head of Microsoft's entertainment and devices division (which includes XBox and Windows Mobile), and Stephen Elop, who runs Microsoft's business division, which produces Office. Former Yahoo executive Qi Lu joined Microsoft as president of its online services group this month.

The four presidents, along with Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner, who runs Microsoft's sales, marketing and service organization, all report directly to Ballmer.

Kevin Johnson, who was president of the platforms and services division (which includes Windows and Windows Live), left in July to run networking vendor Juniper Networks. The division and its executives now report directly to Ballmer.

The promotion culminates a comeback for Muglia and his division. The servers and tools division was actually absorbed by the business division in mid-2007, and then made independent again six months later when its president, Jeff Raikes, retired.

Muglia's promotion will raise speculation about the pecking order for executives at Microsoft, as well as its post-Ballmer succession plans.

Muglia "is doing a fabulous job," said independent tech analyst Rob Enderle last year. At the time, he called Muglia a worthy but dark horse candidate for the top spot at Microsoft.

Muglia will be 58 in 2018, when Ballmer has publicly said he plans to retire.

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Eric Lai

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