- Javier Soltero, one of Microsoft’s rising stars, is leaving the company after four years, with the intention of “getting back to building new things.”
- He came to Microsoft after his startup, Acompli, was acquired in 2014 – a move that was seen as emblematic of then-new CEO Satya Nadella’s revitalized corporate strategy.
- Soltero had a reputation for challenging Microsoft’s assumptions, and famously warned employees that they were on the brink of irrelevance without swift action.
- Soltero rose from leading Outlook on smartphones, to leading Outlook overall, to eventually leading the Cortana digital assistant business.
Javier Soltero, currently the head of Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant, is departing the tech titan at the end of the year amid a round of reorganization to the Microsoft Office business.
The news was first reported by ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, and confirmed to Business Insider by the company. Soltero didn’t immediately announce his next move, but tells Business Insider that he plans on “getting back to building new things.”
Soltero was something of a rising star. He first came to Microsoft in early 2014, following the acquisition of Acompli, a startup he had cofounded. In a matter of weeks, Acompli’s email app had been rebranded to Outlook for iPhone and Android – a move that was seen as emblematic of then-new CEO Satya Nadella’s embrace of rival operating systems.
Outlook was, and is, a popular smartphone email client, particularly among corporate users. As the app gained traction, so too did Soltero’s influence. He soon found himself leading Outlook across all platforms, and then, leading strategy for all of Microsoft Office.
Soltero has a reputation at Microsoft for speaking truth to corporate power. In 2015, he delivered a sobering presentation that warned employees that without swift action to modernise Microsoft Office and Outlook, the company could find itself as irrelevant as the competitors it had long since vanquished. He told the Wall Street Journal that this presentation actually earned him hate mail from employees, who accused him of being “disrespectful” the company’s legacy.
In March of this year, Soltero took command of Cortana, Microsoft’s rival to Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and the Google Assistant. He was given a mandate to find a niche for Cortana, which comes built into Windows 10, but has struggled to gain traction on smartphones and elsewhere.
Soltero’s departure comes as Microsoft continues an ongoing streamlining of the Cortana business.
The general idea, as ZDNet’s Foley notes, is that Microsoft is trying to reposition Cortana as a general helper within Office – sort of a smarter, more capable successor to its infamous Clippy. To that end, Microsoft is bringing Cortana closer to the Office business, putting it under the general umbrella of Microsoft Executive VP Rajesh Jha.