The Microsoft vice president in charge of online business is to step down, causing speculation over the future of the company?s interactive media group (IMG).
Pete Higgins will take a leave of absence, a not uncommon practice at the software giant, at the end of the year and return during 1999 to a different post. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft?s president, will lead IMG until a successor can be found.
Over the past two years Higgins has been leading Microsoft?s push into the online area by beefing up the MSN portal service to compete against Yahoo, Excite and others. Microsoft has made several acquisitions to strengthen its online position, most significantly free Web based email provider Hotmail, Net privacy company Firefly and online advertising firm Linkexchange.
The announcement of Higgins? departure suggests the company is re-evaluating its online strategy in a bid to recoup the millions it has spent acquiring these companies, speculated analysts.
Yankee Group analyst Melissa Bane said the fight with Yahoo isn?t over yet and to expect a new, stronger MSN. ?They are launching a new, multimillion dollar advertising campaign to promote the access unit and they?ve brought all the commerce properties under the same umbrella. With the recent acquisition of Linkexchange, I think the portal market will start to see some very fierce competition from the Microsoft camp in the near future.?
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