Paul Maritz, a key executive figure in the historic antitrust trial against Microsoft, is stepping down, the software giant said late Wednesday.
Maritz, Microsoft's group vice president of the platforms and strategies group and a key member of the executive inner circle at the company, played significant roles in several key initiatives during his 14-year tenure at the company.
While he has resigned his post, Maritz will maintain a consulting relationship with the company. He had signaled an interest in taking a less active role in the company last month.
Most recently, Maritz headed the company's developer tools efforts, but he also figured prominently in the ongoing federal antitrust case against Microsoft. Memos between other executives and Maritz were a frequent subject of examination during the long trial.
Maritz underwent a three-day cross-examination during the trial, with lead prosecutor David Boies attempting to show a pattern of anticompetitive and predatory behavior on Microsoft's part.
One single comment -- that Microsoft would "cut off Netscape's air supply" -- was attributed to Maritz and became a flashpoint in the trial.
In 160 pages of written testimony, Maritz denied having made the "air supply" remark and refuted numerous other allegations as well.
His departure is the latest in a string of executives that have left the company in the past two years, including CFO Greg Maffei, CTO Nathan Myhrvold and Vice Presidents Rich Tong, Todd Nielsen, Pete Higgins, and Sam Jadallah.
In addition, Senior Vice President and longtime Windows operating systems guru Jim Allchin has been on an extended leave of absence and did not attend the much-publicized Microsoft .Net debut in June, although he is still technically head of the Enterprise and Consumer Windows Division.
A new group of Microsoft executives have seized power internally this year following the ascension of co-founder Bill Gates to chairman and chief software architect and the rise of Steve Ballmer to the CEO post.
In a reorganization in April, Office chief Bob Muglia was picked to head the new .Net service group. He reports to Group Vice President Rick Belluzzo, who heads the consumer and MSN businesses, now dubbed Personal Services and Devices.
Group Vice President Jeff Raikes, who headed sales and marketing for many years, has become head of productivity applications.
Microsoft officials have repeatedly said there has not been an unusual amount of executive turnover.
In a statement, Ballmer praised Maritz.
"Paul is truly a leader among leaders, and it has been a privilege to work alongside such an intelligent, wise, honest and wonderful human being for so many years," Ballmer said.
Microsoft Vice President Sanjay Parthasarathy, who formerly reported to Maritz, has been appointed to a developer evangelism and business development role, the company says.
"Microsoft is one of the great places on earth to work," Maritz said in a statement.