21 Years Ought to be Enough for Anybody (or, Bon Voyage, Charlie Kindel!)

While I have annoyed more than my fair share of higher-up executives at Microsoft, as dramatized in the photo below:

Msft executives i have annoyed

…there’s one guy who I’m quite sure still thinks I’m a righteous dude: Charlie Kindel, pictured below:

Charlie kindel

Charlie has been at Microsoft longer than there’s been a World Wide Web: here’s been there for 21 years, and the very first web page at CERN was put online only 20 years ago this past weekend. If you put it in terms of a typical run at a high-tech company, Charlie’s longevity at Microsoft is like being reincarnated 7 times.

I met him while he was in his final role. In the great tradition of unwieldy Microsoftian names, his title was “Partner Group Program Manager for the Windows Phone Application Platform and Developer Experience”, which he would acronymize into “PGPMWPAPDE” on the title slide of his presentations to great comic effect. It was his responsibility to get developers to build apps for Windows Phone 7. This was an unenviable task, as Microsoft had fallen asleep at the wheel with mobile, tragically underestimated Apple (“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share,” said Steve Ballmer in 2007, “No chance”) and were now playing a game of catch-up where the front runner had a three-year lead and were pretty much defining what a smartphone was.

Charlie did a fantastic job of rallying the troops. He gathered us Windows Phone Champs — a hand-picked team of evangelists, developers and tech writers — and not only walked us through the fine points of developing for Windows Phone 7, but also instilled in us a feeling that yes, this phone is worth championing. It’s one thing to go over technical details; it’s entirely another thing to get the troops revved up, especially against some pretty long odds.

He was also good at recognizing the Champs’ contributions and helping them play to their strengths. At the MIX 2010 conference, he sought me out and made sure I had one of the rare and coveted “I [heart] Windows Phone” stickers for my accordion, which is still there even though I’m no longer a Sith Lord with The Empire:

For his work, dedication and especially his support and vote of confidence, I will always be grateful to Charlie.

The word’s out that after 21 years and a gazillion projects at Microsoft, Charlie’s leaving to launch a startup. It’s still in stealth mode, but he’s provided a hint in his farewell blog post, where he says it’ll be about “sports, advertising, mobile, social-networking, and, of course, the cloud”.

True to form, he left the Phone team with this message:

To the Windows Phone team: I may stop using some Microsoft products now that I’m out of here. But not Windows Phone. The BEST product Microsoft has ever built. Do not let up!

Well said. Charlie’s one of the reasons I still hold onto my Samsung Focus and keep my Windows Phone 7 dev tools up to date.

Charlie, good luck with the startup — I’ve got an idea of what that’s like — thanks for everything, and I’ll see you out there!

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