— For years, Joe Belfiore and David Treadwell waged
their own separate battles at Microsoft Corp., with
Belfiore helping to lead the upstart Windows Phone
division and Treadwell heading Xbox software and
last month at Build, Microsoft’s annual developers
conference, they shared the spotlight — a sign that
their teams, and the company as a whole, are
increasingly marching to the "One Microsoft"
Microsoft," a deep reworking of Microsoft’s
organization, is designed to eliminate the distractions
and infighting that some say stifled innovation and
caused the software giant to fall woefully behind its
competitors in critical areas.
and Treadwell are among the top executives in the
Operating Systems Group, formed during a companywide
reorganization last year. It brings together some of
Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft’s most famous brands
— including Windows, Xbox and Windows Phone — which
had previously been siloed in different divisions.
their roles, the two veteran employees are central to
the "One Microsoft" effort, bringing together
everything from product design to schedules that range
across Microsoft’s operating systems. They also work
closely with other groups within the company.
and Treadwell are, respectively, in charge of the front
end and back end of operating systems, including the
Windows PC, tablet and phone platforms.
leads the team responsible for the "user
experience" for Windows PCs, tablets and phones.
heads the program management team that plans and decides
what goes into the core operating system for PCs,
tablets and phones, as well as for Xbox, Windows
Embedded (which runs industry devices), and Perceptive
Pixel large touch-screen displays.
Build, Belfiore took the stage first and, in his usual
conversational, upbeat manner, introduced Cortana,
Microsoft’s voice assistant for Windows Phone.
that morning, Treadwell, in his friendly, enthusiastic
way, announced "universal Windows apps," which
makes it easier for developers to write once and have
their apps run across Windows PCs, tablets and phones.
and universal Windows apps are two of the most visible
examples of Microsoft’s effort to foster a more
collaborative company culture — an effort that began
with the companywide reorganization put into place last
July by previous CEO Steve Ballmer and being continued
by new CEO Satya Nadella.
for instance, relies heavily on Microsoft’s Bing
search engine, meaning the Windows Phone and Bing teams
had to work closely together.
announcement, meanwhile, came as Microsoft launched
Windows Phone 8.1 six months after Windows 8.1 was
introduced to the market.
marked the last time significant updates were planned
for and released on different schedules.
had to finish Windows 8.1 Update, Windows Phone 8.1,
Xbox One," Treadwell said. "Now that those are
done, we are now on the same logistical schedules. We’re
going to have one common OS schedule and everything’s
going to be aligned with that. We’re doing common
planning now, common priority, common release
46, the more extroverted of the two, is a familiar
presence at Microsoft conferences, frequently giving
demos on stage.
is "colorful, excitable, authentic and genuine …
very passionate about the end user experience,"
said Terry Myerson, head of the Operating Systems Group.
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became enamored of computers early on — ever since he
found out that a kid in his neighborhood in Clearwater,
Fla., had a dad who owned a Timex Sinclair 1000.
go over to his house to ‘play with the kid’ and I
just wanted to play with the computer," Belfiore
recalls. "I used to write these BASIC programs
where you’d sit down and have a conversational
interaction" using text on the screen.
graduating from Stanford with a computer-science degree,
he arrived at Microsoft in 1990, intrigued that the
software giant was "building state-of-the-art
experiences in Word and Excel."
also had been turned down earlier for a job at Walt
Disney Imagineering, which designs and develops the
Disney theme parks. He saw Imagineering as a place that
exemplified using technology to create emotional
experiences for people.
he came to feel, could do the same with its technologies
— something he’s focused on at the company,
including as general manager of the Windows XP user
interface, and as a previous leader of Zune software and
services, Media Center and Windows Phone program
management and design.
role now is to think about creating the best customer
experience, leading him to advocate, for example, that
Treadwell’s team work on creating a core operating
system that will enable hardware manufacturers to build
devices in a range of prices.
can you engineer a great experience? That’s really
been the focus of my career," Belfiore said.
47, is thoughtful, patient, detail-oriented.
focuses on infrastructure, Myerson said, making sure
that things are "very well built, well architected,
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who grew up in Baltimore, also became fascinated by
computers early on. He recalls being enthralled by
"the things you could do" with his grandfather’s
TRS-80, on which he wrote BASIC programs to play
came to Microsoft in 1989 after receiving his
electrical-engineering degree from Princeton, drawn by
the chance to work on the then-nascent Windows NT under
David Cutler, considered the father of that operating
and throughout his career at Microsoft — which
included leading the .NET developer platform, Windows
Live Platform Services, and Xbox software and services
engineering — his motivation has always been to build
great products that have a positive impact.
role today is to see how Belfiore’s and others’
needs fit into the big picture, playing the mediator and
balancing the needs of Xbox with those of Windows and
Windows Phone, for instance.
the Operating Systems Group, cooperation is a
requirement for Belfiore and Treadwell in their jobs,
but there are built-in healthy tensions.
likens their roles to that of painters, and plumbers or
electricians — both of whom are essential to the
building of a house.
is just a magnificent painter. Dave is much more a
plumber or electrician," Myerson said.
"Together we all come together and build this
fabulous house that is Windows."
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their time at Microsoft, Belfiore and Treadwell say,
they’ve taken part in collaborative efforts across
Windows Phone and Bing teams had worked together on
previous versions of the smartphone before deciding in
2012 to collaborate on Cortana.
from the two divisions met regularly, on campus and at a
bar in Bellevue.
particular sticking point: finalizing the name.
people said Microsoft had spent a lot of money and
effort building up brands such as Bing, and it made
sense to capitalize on that with a name like Bing
including Belfiore, thought users would find it more
intriguing and be able to more easily make an emotional
connection if it were named after Cortana, an
artificial-intelligence character who helps the
protagonist in Microsoft’s "Halo" video
sees the reorganization last year as the formalization
of a shift toward more collaboration that has been going
on for a while now.
and Treadwell acknowledge that such collaboration has
become easier. Before last summer’s reorganization,
for example, each division had its own design team. Now,
they’ve all merged into one.
this year, almost all of Microsoft’s engineering teams
— from Azure to Office, Bing to Skype — took part in
the crafting of a priority memo prepared by Treadwell’s
team that states what the company will be including in
its next big release of Windows.
there was a Windows team, a Windows Phone team, an Xbox
team. While there was general agreement of the value of
(having a) common core and consistency of design, there
were organizational lines that we had to cross to
achieve that," Treadwell said. "There just
aren’t these barriers now."