Microsoft Closes Hip Consumer Design Office In Downtown Seattle

J Allard

Microsoft has shut down its office in the funky Pioneer Square neighbourhood of Seattle, where consumer electronics concepts like the “Metro” interface for Windows Phone 7 and the never-released Courier tablet were hatched, reports Jay Greene at CNET.

J Allard hatched the idea of keeping a separate team of designers and product planners in Seattle when he moved from Xbox leader to Chief eXperience Officer for the Entertainment & Devices division back in 2007. (Yes, they capitalised the “X” so he could be CXO.)

The office had the laid-back feel of a startup, according to one person who worked there, with lots of open space and regular beer blasts.

But Allard left the company last spring, and some of the products designed there, like the Kin phone and Zune HD, never sold well. Without a strong corporate proponent, the office couldn’t last for long.

Microsoft confirmed to CNET that most of the employees from the Pioneer Square space are now working for other divisions or have left the company entirely.

The move seems shortsighted as Microsoft struggles to compete with Apple, Google, and other companies in the consumer market, but perhaps executives felt the work could be just as effectively done on Microsoft’s main campus in Redmond, about 20 minutes from downtown Seattle.

Here’s a video from last fall in which Georg Petschnigg explains the purpose of the studio: