Microsoft Office Gets Two Chiefs In DelBene, Leblond

Microsoft Office

The group, responsible for a good chunk of Microsoft’s revenue and profit, has been divided in half with two company veterans atop each part as corporate vice presidents.

Kurt DelBene will head Microsoft’s Office Business Platform Group, which encompasses SharePoint, Groove and Project efforts. He has been immersed of late in collaboration and information sharing. He joined Microsoft in 1992.

Antoine Leblond will head the Office client team and related services. Leblond is another long- timer, joining the company in 1989, and has worked on Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Outlook, all client component parts of the Microsoft Office suite.

Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division, disclosed the news to staff on Wednesday.

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DelBene’s name is no surprise. He has been very public of late, sharing the stage with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates at big events, most recently a SharePoint love fest just weeks ago. Many at the company expected him to move up.

Likewise, insiders said Leblond, seen as Sinofsky’s right-hand man in Office, is another natural choice. Sinofsky is touted inside the company for his ability to deliver products on schedule—even if it means cutting features. He moved over to the Windows team in March.

News of new leadership comes at a critical time for Microsoft: Office 2007 hit second beta last month and the company is rushing to ship it broadly by early next year.

“The new Office is one of the most important releases in years for Microsoft,” said Howard Diamond, CEO of ePartners, a large Microsoft Gold and Microsoft Business Solutions partner based in Seattle.

“It will totally change the solutions approach in the market and erase the differentiation between the Dynamics [ERP] products and classic products,” Diamond added.

Microsoft “classic” products are the company’s bread-and-butter volume offerings—most notably Windows and Office. Dynamics is the new moniker for the Microsoft ERP lineup.

The ERP lines and next Office are moving to new “role-based” user interfaces that in theory will make more functions easier for customers to find and use. The convergence of those two heretofore disparate product types worries many in the Microsoft channel community, however.

MBS products typically require a longer, consultation-rich sales cycle, and those authorized partners get richer margins as a result. The fear going forward is Microsoft will put those products through volume sales and depress margins.