Julie Larson-Green New Head of Xbox; What this Means for MS
Julie Larson-Green is replacing Don Mattrick as the head of Xbox hardware.
Two weeks ago, Mattrick left his role as Microsoft’s head of Interactive Entertainment Business to become the CEO of Zynga. Following this shake-up, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced an aggressive restructuring plan last Thursday that would see the Xbox One team folded into the new Devices and Studios Engineering Group, which oversees all hardware development.
Larson-Green has been appointed head of the Devices and Studios Engineering Group and has also been put in charge of games, music, and entertainment. This effectively makes her Mattrick’s replacement — and responsible for helping Microsoft recover from its poor performance at E3 2013.
While Microsoft’s hardware unit forms a relatively small part of the company’s business, responsible for less than 10 percent of the company’s revenue, it is perhaps its most high-profile aspect. Office software may bring in the big bucks, but it’s the Xbox and Surface tablet that get the media attention.
Larson-Green may lack experience in the video game industry, but during her time at Microsoft, she has demonstrated the ability to quickly adapt to new challenges. A 20-year veteran at the tech giant, Larson-Green was hired by Microsoft in 1993 as a program manager for Visual C++ and has since led UI design for a number of Windows projects and overseen the launches of Windows 7 and Windows 8.
After Windows Vista’s poor reception, Larson-Green was transferred over to help reorganize the Windows team. According to an interview in The Telegraph from 2009, Larson-Green played a fundamental role in turning things around for Windows 7. “I’d been working on Office and had never worked on an operating system before. I spent a lot of time learning about the market, the challenges, the people on the team,” she told the The Telegraph.
Perhaps the most obvious effect that Larson-Green has had on a Microsoft product was Office 2007′s “ribbon” redesign. While it was met with initial controversy among end-users accustomed to the old layout, Microsoft awarded Larson-Green its 2008 Outstanding Technical Excellence Award for the redesign. The award recognizes “an individual responsible for creating or directly influencing a visionary initiative through collaboration and technical leadership, creating a breakthrough in the technology industry.”
Selling the idea of the dramatic redesign to the teams behind Word, Excel, Outlook, and the rest of the Office suite was no easy task, but Larson-Green managed to convince the suite’s principals one by one. Given Microsoft may have some difficult decisions to make with regards to the Xbox One, Larson-Green may just be the right person to make the tough calls and persuade the necessary parties to keep up in the race against Sony and the PS4.