Posted by: kurtsh | June 29, 2006

COMMENTARY: What happened to Martin Taylor?

There’s been enough conjecture around this topic that I thought maybe I’d riff a little about it.  Basically, the story goes that Martin Taylor, a much heralded individual responsible for Windows Live – Microsoft’s new Internet services technologies, departed from Microsoft under rather mysterious circumstances.  The PR statement from Redmond was, "We have made the difficult decision to part ways with Martin, but we don’t comment on personnel matters. We appreciate Martin’s contributions at Microsoft over the past 13 years."
I personally don’t know what happened, but I do perceive that there are around 4 actions that Redmond could have taken depending upon what was happening.
1) Martin was voluntarily taking a brief leave of absence because of a personal matter like a taking care of a loved one. 
In this instance, the departure would have been friendly and Redmond PR could have made a statement, thanking Martin for all his work, talking about all the great things that he did, go on and on about his future being bright and junk, and basically pouring honey all over him to make sure he came back after his brief respite.  It would be readily obvious to everyone that Martin was still welcome back at Microsoft whenever he wanted and that his reasons for leaving were completely his own.
2) Martin was forced to leave his job to deal with a personal matter that was going to consume too much of his time.
It’s possible that Martin had a matter to tend to that was going to take serious time to deal with, and so he’d either be restricted from travel or would have to go part time, neither of which were acceptable for the position he was in as lead champion for Windows Live.  He might have tried to negotiate something so that he could stay on in the same role while accommodating his personal matter but his role as the chief mouthpiece of Windows Live is so important in our online services battle that we couldn’t have someone at the helm doing it only "part time", so Microsoft was forced to let him go quietly and quickly with regret.
3) Martin was voluntarily leaving Microsoft for a competitor like Google.
After all, it’s not like this hasn’t happened recently.  4 rather press-hyped names have left Microsoft in the past year for Google:  Marc Lucovsky, Adam Bosworth, Kai-Fu Lee, and Vic Gundotra.  In this instance, Redmond PR wouldn’t have made a statement, but the competitor hiring him probably would have sent out press releases to every news outlet they could reach in order to get some free advertising like Google did with Marc Lucovsky & Kai-Fu Lee.  Martin himself would likely be asked to say something about why he was changing jobs.
4) Martin was asked to leave. 
This could be for any number of reasons.  Because of the Martin’s title and position within the company, this would be a very uncomfortable matter and one that would be difficult for both Martin as well as for the company’s PR department.  In this case, very little would be said however a statement would be made immediately to ensure that if the reason for his departure was one that could be damaging to all involved, an official statement was already submitted to the newswire and it couldn’t be said that a "party line" hadn’t been established.
At least that’s what I’m thinking.  Either #2 or #4 could fit the bill but I’ve been told that Martin was a very decent and principled guy so my thinking is #2:  That he couldn’t commit the necessary time to his job – a job that’s very important here at Microsoft.


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