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Plugged In

Julie Larson-Green named new Xbox boss

Plugged In

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Julie Larson Green (Credit: Microsoft)

Steve Ballmer's massive overhaul of Microsoft's executive office and business practices has cleared up the mystery of who will take over the Xbox division after the shocking departure of Don Mattrick.

The reorganization, announced Thursday, will put two long-time veterans of the company in charge of its console division, with different areas of focus.

Julie Larson-Green, who has run the Windows engineering team since last fall, now leads the Devices and Studios Engineering group, a new division that oversees all Microsoft hardware. That puts her in charge of hardware development, games, music and entertainment, as well as devices like the Surface tablet.

For gamers, Larson-Green will be the most public face for Xbox. She's a well-respected 19-year veteran of Microsoft known for her passionate focus on the user experience. She oversaw the launch of Windows 7 and led UI design for Office XP, Office 2003 and Office 2007. She was also highly visible in the launch of Windows 8.

While some media outlets are calling her the "heir apparent" at Microsoft, her start with the company wasn't exactly smooth. When she first applied for a job out of college, she was rejected. She ended up taking a customer service job at Aldus, a maker of desktop publishing software, which she credits for her emphasis on UI.

Larson-Green's only experience in hardware, though, is with the Surface tablet, which hasn’t been as successful as many had hoped. And she was also reportedly the driving force for Windows 8's Metro interface.

She won’t be alone piloting the Xbox’s future, however. The reorg puts Terry Myerson, previously in charge of the Windows Phone unit, in charge of the Operating Systems Engineering Group, a team focused on operating systems for personal computers, mobile devices, video game consoles and back-end systems.

That means he’ll oversee the Xbox One’s software, which is kind of an odd marriage, given Larson-Green's UI expertise. Myerson will likely focus most of his attention on the Windows unit, which leaves some question marks about how this twosome will work.

One thing's for sure, though: neither of the new Xbox leaders has anywhere near Don Mattrick’s gaming experience. What sort of impact will that have long term? We'll have to wait to find out.

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