2 veterans work to break down barriers between Microsoft divisions

| Friday, June 6, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

SEATTLE — For years, Joe Belfiore and David Treadwell waged separate battles at Micro­soft Corp., with Belfiore helping to lead the upstart Windows Phone division and Treadwell heading Xbox software and services engineering.

But 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” tune.

“One 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.

Belfiore 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 been siloed in different divisions.

In 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.

Belfiore and Treadwell are, respectively, in charge of the front and back ends of operating systems, including the Windows PC, tablet and phone platforms.

Belfiore leads the team responsible for the “user experience” for Windows PCs, tablets and phones.

Treadwell 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.

During Build, Belfiore took the stage first and, in his usual conversational, upbeat manner, introduced Cortana, Micro­soft's voice assistant for Windows Phone.

Later 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.

Cortana 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 in July by then-CEO Steve Ballmer and being continued by CEO Satya Nadella.

Cortana, for instance, relies heavily on Microsoft's Bing search engine, meaning the Windows Phone and Bing teams had to work closely together.

Treadwell's announcement, meanwhile, came as Microsoft launched Windows Phone 8.1 six months after Windows 8.1 was introduced to the market.

That marked the last time significant updates were planned for and released on different schedules.

“We 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 schedules.”

Belfiore, 46, the more extroverted of the two, is a familiar presence at Microsoft conferences, frequently giving demos onstage.

He is “colorful, excitable, authentic and genuine ... very passionate about the end user experience,” said Terry Myer­son, head of the Operating Systems Group.

Belfiore's role is to think about building 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.

“How can you engineer a great experience? That's really been the focus of my career,” Belfiore said.

Treadwell, 47, is thoughtful, patient, detail-oriented.

He focuses on infrastructure, Myerson said, making sure that things are “very well built, well architected, well designed.”

Treadwell's 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.

Within the Operating Systems Group, cooperation is a requirement for Belfiore and Treadwell in their jobs, but there are built-in healthy tensions.

Myerson likens their roles to that of painters, and plumbers or electricians — both of whom are essential to the building of a house.

“Joe is just a magnificent painter. Dave is much more a plumber or electrician,” Myerson said. “Together we ... build this fabulous house that is Windows.”

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