Home Three Big Geeks Leave Microsoft in One Day, Including Barney Pell

Three Big Geeks Leave Microsoft in One Day, Including Barney Pell

Barney Pell of Powerset, ZuneHD business development lead Dave McLauchlan and Windows 7 gaming project manager Ruchit Garg all announced today that they are leaving Microsoft. Pell, a super-geek and the best known of the three, leaves three years and one month after his semantic startup Powerset was acquired by Microsoft before it even fully launched, for a rumored $100 million.

People come and people go from companies all the time, but for three well-known names from Microsoft to depart in one day has got to be dispiriting. Hopefully, when smart people leave giant companies, it means they will create something new and fabulous elsewhere.

Pell will focus on angel investing – he probably secured a nice addition to his stockpile to invest with by sticking around for more than three years. Microsoft watcher Mary Joe Foley covers his departure in some depth this evening. The best write-up of what Powerset was as a technology and as a phenomenon is probably Matt Marshall’s Venturebeat write-up from five years ago (at least I still remember that one today). Alex Iskold provided a solid comparison of Microsoft plus Powerset vs Google when the acquisition was confirmed. It seems that a whole lot of hope, hype and technology may have gone to waste. Or maybe it’s infused throughout Bing and is one of that minor search engine’s saving graces.

Powerset was the subject of huge expectations and controversy three years ago, though. The company inspired countless conversations about the nature and potential of Natural Language Search and the semantic web.

Right: Barney Pell, photo by TechCrunch.

Dave McLauchlan has been a prominent member of the small but loyal Zune community. Tech blog Electronicista points out that he was a vocal defender of the Zune’s long-term viability just six months ago. That was, no doubt, his job though and he did note that “all consumer electronics have a lifespan.” He’ll work next on an advertising optimization company, for which he’ll have to listen to fewer jokes I assume than he has had to about Zune – which is really saying something.

Ruchit Garg left Microsoft as well today after working on web and mobile casual games for 6 years at the company, almost 3 of which were spent in India.

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