The Explosion After Ignite

by Dave Michels

This week was Microsoft Ignite – its now annual conference for IT Pros. I will be posting more about Ignite soon, including a new 2Pager next week.

The week’s biggest Skype4B news wasn’t really at Ignite. News is spreading now that both Gurdeep and Zig are leaving their current roles. Also, EVP Applications and Services Group Qi Lu is leaving for medical reasons. That’s a lot of changes at Microsoft – especially for Skype4B. Qi Lu was responsible for all of research and development teams across Microsoft Office, Office 365, SharePoint, Exchange, Yammer, Lync, Skype, Bing, Bing Apps, MSN and the Advertising platforms and business group. Gurdeep Singh Pall served as CVP of Skype at Microsoft responsible for Skype4B server, Skype4B Online, and consumer Skype. Zig Serafin is CVP of Skype Business Services.

Zig Serafin at Enterprise Connect 2015

Gurdeep and Zig have worked together at Microsoft for several years on both Skype and Bing.  Both Gurdeep and Zig left Skype4B before, and they were excitedly welcomed back a few years ago.

Gurdeep Singh Pall was at Ignite this week and delivered a general session loaded with Skype stats, announcements, and demos. Gurdeep is a rock-star celebrity within the Skype community. There was no mention at Ignite that his role was expected to change, but he was noticeably absent from the rest of the event. It was as if he came and left just for his presentation – maybe he did. CEO Satya Nadella communicated executive changes in an internal email, and wrote: “Gurdeep Singh Pall and I have decided this is the right time for him to transition to his next role.” Gurdeep’s next role at Microsoft is unknown at this time (guessing something in AI).

Zig may have decided to leave Microsoft and ride a more technical wave at a smaller company. There hasn’t been any formal announcement yet from Microsoft, but rumor has it that he shared the news internally. Zig has delivered the Microsoft Skype4B keynotes at the past two Enterprise Connect conferences. He is also scheduled to deliver a keynote at the upcoming BC Summit in November.

The changes appear unrelated. Regardless, a major transition is coming to Skype4B. That’s a shame as this leadership team has proven itself to be effective. Though it will result with a collective sigh of relief from many UC vendors.

I left Ignite feeling confident about Skype4B and Skype4B Online, certainly more than when I arrived. The team has successfully pivoted from premises-only model to pure-cloud and hybrid options, and simultaneously catapulted Microsoft into the carrier/provider space. Skype too has been completely rearchitected. Several Skype4B announcements were made this week at Ignite including the October general availability of Project Rigel – previewed last March.

The only named successor so far is Rajesh Jha, who is taking Gurdeep’s responsibilities as well as other responsibilities from Qi Lu. Google doesn’t seem to know much about Jha (perhaps I should try Bing). He was last reported as EVP of Microsoft’s Office Product Group responsible for development and service engineering teams within Office 365 including Office, Skype and OneNote. LinkedIn says he’s been at Microsoft for ten years, and he posts here.


This post has been updated and will be updated.