Mark Penn Assumes Role of Executive Vice President, Strategy for Microsoft

On March 2, 2014, in an article published on the re/code website, titled Exclusive: Top Execs Bates and Reller to Depart, as Musical Chairs Begins at Microsoft, Kara Swisher informed the public of the appointment of Mark Penn to the position of EVP of Strategy at Microsoft®.

A quick review of Mr. Penn’s page on Microsoft.com (updated on March 3, 2014) substantiates Swisher’s claim.

In another article Swisher opines on the political ramifications of Penn’s tenure at Microsoft.

Nick Wingfield, who writes for the New York Times, spread the word of Penn’s ascension to his new position further in an article published on the same day, titled Ex-Clinton Aide is Named Microsoft’s Chief Strategy Officer. Wingfield also chose to focus on Penn’s controversial track record directing Microsoft’s recent marketing efforts, most notably the “Don’t Get Scroogled” campaign.

But there is another side to this story neither Swisher nor Wingfield have chosen to treat: What’s the real significance of this change in leadership, given Penn’s predecessors in this position?

Industry analysts may want to put together an answer to this question, while adding to it, perhaps, a dash of zest from the opinions of Swisher, Wingfield, et al. Just a word on why the zest: If the combative, confrontational style themes projected by the Scroogled campaign are to be the norm, going forward, than perhaps we can build a different picture of how Microsoft will likely behave under the leadership of Messrs Nadella and Thompson towards competitors.

Penn’s predecessors in this position included Bill Gates and Ray Ozzie. Both Gates and Ozzie were obviously very deep in technical understanding, but, perhaps, very light as regards their respective abilities to foretell consumer interest in product notions. Certainly one can argue Gates was the pre-eminent strategist for business computing products. Ozzie, for his part, brought to Microsoft the core of the Lotus Notes “thing”, which captivated so much of the Fortune 1000 marketplace for collaborative computing.

But neither Gates, nor Ozzie had the chops to address the consumerization of IT trend and put together the solutions appropriate for this new market. Penn may have these chops.

Don’t forget his past career in the political arena as chief pollster for both President Bill Clinton, and, later, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Penn brings the methodical analytic expertise to the job, which is required to prove product notions across Microsoft’s Devices and Services market.

Bottom line: Microsoft is serious about the consumerized IT market and doesn’t look to be pulling back from tablets, and smart phones anytime soon.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

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