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Outsider to Fill Microsoft COO Post

Microsoft named a new chief operating officer this week. Kevin Turner comes to Redmond after 19 years with Wal-Mart where he most recently was president and CEO of Sam’s Club.

Turner, who is 40, will provide strategic and operational leadership of Microsoft’s global sales, marketing and service organization as well as the company’s fulfillment and IT operations, according to Microsoft.

Turner simultaneously served as executive vice president of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., where he was responsible for all operations for Sam’s Clubs in the United States. The retail giant’s warehouse club brings in more than $37 billion in annual sales and has 46 million members.

Previously, Turner was executive vice president and CIO for Wal-Mart, where he oversaw all information systems for the company.

At least one analyst gives the hiring a mixed reception. “[Turner’s hiring] portends changes ahead . . . . apparently, someone is thinking Microsoft needs some outside sales and marketing know how,” Joe Wilcox operating system analyst at JupiterResearch says on his Weblog, Microsoft Monitor. “Any help would do, and it's hard to argue that Wal-Mart is unsuccessful.”

Still Wilcox, and other observers wonder how long he will last in the hot seat, serving the needs of the company’s demanding executive team, including chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer.

This is not the first time in recent years that Microsoft has picked an outsider for the COO’s post – minding the company’s day-to-day business is an all important job. And part of it is working with the rest of the executive management team. Rick Belluzzo, who came to Redmond after being CEO of Silicon Graphics, replaced Bob Herbold who retired in 2001. However, something about Belluzzo’s style didn’t mesh with Microsoft senior management and he left after little more than a year on the job to head data storage company Quantum. The post has been empty since 2002.

Turner starts Sept. 8. To eliminate job overlap, Kevin Johnson, group vice president of worldwide sales, marketing and services at Microsoft, will be named to a different job within the next month, the company said.

No word on whether Turner will bring what he has described as Wal-Mart’s “divine discount” mentality to Microsoft’s sales and marketing operations.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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