Microsoft Taps Thompson to Run Zune

Posted by sumeethevans on October 6 2007, 1:05 AM. Posted in Zune.

First, Microsoft's Zune digital music player gets a makeover. Now, it has a new leader.

Microsoft's Entertainment & Devices Div. President Robbie Bach sent an e-mail on Oct. 4 notifying staff that company veteran Rick Thompson will become Zune vice-president, responsible for overseeing the business operations of the Zune unit. Thompson will report to J Allard, the product design visionary who has held the position since Bryan Lee retired in April.

News of the appointment follows Microsoft's Oct. 2 launch of the second iteration of Zune (, 10/3/07), introducing a new look and three new devices, as well as a revamped online store and improved software to connect to a PC.

From Mouse to Zune

Zune is a distant No. 2 to Apple's (AAPL) iPod among digital music players with hard drives. Both Thompson and Allard are sanguine about the product's prospects. Allard says that the 1.2 million devices Microsoft has shipped give the company a foundation for further growth. "It's not a business yet," Allard says. "We're anteing in. We've got a seat at the table." Microsoft Chairman William H. Gates III reiterated the company's commitment to building the Zune business at the launch of the new devices. It will be Thompson's job to make that happen. "Does this business need to be bigger? Sure," Thompson says. "We have to augment our capability from a business standpoint."

Thompson has built several businesses from the ground up at Microsoft. He joined the company in 1987 as a product manager on Microsoft's mouse business. Four years later, he was named general manager of Microsoft's hardware operations and became a vice-president in 1996. On his watch, the business grew from $30 million in annual sales to $600 million.

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