Windows Mobile future now in Ballmer's hands

No war is without causalities, and the heated battle for ground in the mobile space is no exception. Confirming reports of a forthcoming shakeup, Microsoft announced today the departure of two of high-level leaders of its Entertainment and Devices division, a move that grants CEO Steve Ballmer more direct control over the course of the group.

Microsoft still rules the desktop roost, but in the increasingly critical mobile phone market, Redmond lags far behind the likes of Google and Apple. Thus, it may not come as too much of a surprise that Microsoft is planning to reorganize parts of its devices division this week, according to reports.

The departing executives are Robbie Bach, president of the division, and J Allard, the senior VP of design and development. Neither position will be refilled. Rather, the respective senior vice presidents of the Mobile Communications and Interactive Entertainment businesses will start reporting directly to Ballmer come July 1.

The timing of the departures is particularly striking. Bach worked closely on Windows Phone 7, yet he won't be onboard when platform is rolled out this fall. In Microsoft's official statement, Ballard says he's leaving to devote more time to his family and nonprofit work. Allard, meanwhile, was rumored to have gone MIA from Microsoft shortly after the company pulled the plug on its much-anticipated Courier tablet computer. Technically, Allard isn't departing, according to Microsoft. Rather, "he will take an official role as an advisor in a strategic role for Ballmer and his leadership team."

Reading between the lines of Microsoft official statements, you can just make out the underlying message: "We dropped the ball in the mobile space. We didn't spend enough time developing viable, lightweight mobile platforms for smart phones and tablets to compete with the likes of Google Android, Apple iPhone OS, or HP WebOS, and now we're behind. But we're taking mobile seriously now. Really." Microsoft will have some catching up to do once the dust settles. The world may not see a worthwhile mobile device running a platform from Redmond until the holiday season. Meanwhile, iPhone and Android-based smartphones are enjoying increasing market share, while vendors such as Dell, HP, and Verizon have announced rivals to the iPad. HP, in fact, appears to have shelved an anticipated tablet running Windows 7 in favor of a device running its soon-to-be acquired WebOS platform from Palm.

With departure of Entertainment and Devices division's president and VP, Microsoft sends a message: It's ready to do mobile right

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