Resigning Microsoft Developer Cites 'Paralysis' In Windows Live Effort

Niall Kennedy was hired in April to put together a team to build the technology needed to feed information across Live products and to third-party Web sites. The syndication platform was to leverage emerging Web technologies, such as RSS, and Atom.

Kennedy, who lives in San Francisco, said Microsoft started to change its plans for Windows Live after the company's stock plummeted this year due to Wall Street's unhappiness with spending. Microsoft has said its many upcoming product releases have forced it to boost spending by $2.7 billion this year, and add more than 10,000 employees.

"Windows Live is under some heavy change, reorganization, pullback, and general paralysis and unfortunately my ability to perform, hire, and execute was completely frozen as well," Kennedy, whose job title at Microsoft was Product Lead, Windows Live RSS platform, wrote in his blog.

Microsoft denied there was any change in its commitment to Windows Live, which the company has said is its future. Through the initiative, the company plans to offer the capabilities of its software as Web services.

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"We are not pulling back on the Live effort at all," a company spokesperson said in a brief emailed statement. "We are totally committed and seeing great momentum across the company."

In a Wednesday interview with TechWeb, Kennedy said he decided to leave once it became apparent that he wasn't going to get the resources and people he needed to build the team necessary to make good on the plans he and Microsoft had at the beginning of his employment.

"I never hired anyone, because I wasn't given the permission to hire," said Kennedy, a specialist in feed syndication who was hired to head the Live team that was to develop product with the technology.

While it's true Kennedy's complaints could be those of a disgruntled employee, and not indicative of a bigger problem, Microsoft has been under fire before by its own employees. Last year, workers used an anonymous Web site to vent their frustration with the failure of upper executives to raise the company's stock price. The discontent, according to a report in BusinessWeek magazine, had led to scores of defections to rival Google Inc. and other companies.

Among the highest-profile defections was Kai-Fu Lee, a former vice president of Microsoft's speech technology division who left to head Google's research and development center in China.

On its Windows Live initiative, some analysts believe Microsoft could be struggling in its development effort. Where Microsoft in the past set industry standards through its Windows monopoly, it's now having to follow standards set by others in order to operate on the Web.

"Microsoft is trying to build around its own stuff, and it may be finding that task is more difficult than anticipated," Joe Wilcox, analyst for Jupiter Research, said.

Kennedy didn't expect Microsoft to turn its attention back to his project until after it shipped its biggest expected revenue generators: Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange Server 2007, which are all in beta. He wasn't willing to wait that long, or deal with the uncertainty.

"In general, the Live initiative is being re-examined and fine-tuned," Kennedy said.

As a blogger, Kennedy felt it was important to let his readers know that he was leaving Microsoft to pursue some startup ideas. He declined to discuss the technology he'll be working on, but said it was unrelated to his work at Microsoft.

"I'm always open on what I'm currently working on," Kennedy said of his writing. He also said he gave his bosses at Microsoft a heads up before posting the blog announcing his resignation. Kennedy's last day at Microsoft is Aug. 18.

"I let them know I planned to post, and gave them a copy of it before I went public on my site," Kennedy said.

Kennedy said he had no problems working for a large corporation, as long as they agreed on the direction to take a project. In the case of Microsoft, he agreed to work for the software giant, because "their vision had matched mine."