Charlie Kindel

Microsoft veteran Charlie Kindel, who led the effort to get independent app developers on board with Windows Phone, is leaving the company after 21 years to launch a startup — but he says he still believes strongly in Microsoft’s long-term prospects against the likes of Apple and Google in the mobile market.

“To the Windows Phone team: I may stop using some Microsoft products now that I’m out of here. But not Windows Phone. The BEST product Microsoft has ever built. Do not let up!” he wrote in his farewell message today.

He says he’ll be staying in the Seattle region building a new tech company. He’s not saying much about the startup yet, but he notes that it will be focused on on advertising, mobile, cloud computing and youth athletics.

Kindel was most recently general manager of the Windows Phone Developer Ecosystem, leading design and development of the Windows Phone 7 Application Platform.

The catalog of Windows Phone apps has climbed to nearly 27,000 in a little more than a year. That still pales in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of third-party apps available for iPhone and Android. However, Microsoft has said its app numbers aren’t padded like its competitors’ numbers are.

Kindel’s past roles at the company included co-founding Microsoft’s eHome division and leading the launch of Windows Home Server.

Kindel says he shifted his Windows Phone responsibilities earlier this year to Microsoft mobile GM Matt Bencke and his team, which includes Brandon Watson, another key figure in Windows Phone apps.

From the outside, the timing of Kindel’s departure might seem unusual. Microsoft’s challenge has only gotten tougher over the past year, as its overall share of mobile phone sales has fallen sharply vs. Apple and Google. And the company is just now gearing up for the debut of the next major update for Windows Phone, code-named Mango, due out this fall.

I asked Kindel about the timing as part of a broader email exchange about his departure, and his plans.

Why leave now? I realize that Mango has RTM’d, but it seems like the developer relations for it would be key right now.

Kindel: Like taking vacation or having a baby, there’s never a good time. In reality, I stepped away from day to day Windows Phone work earlier this year to focus on what I wanted to do with my career next. I went into “learning mode”. As I was looking at what would excite me next, serendipitously, the opportunity to do a startup outside of Microsoft came up.  Every fiber of my body has told me “it’s finally time”.

How do you feel about the state of the Windows Phone developer ecosystem at this point, and Windows Phone overall?

Kindel: I’m extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished. When we started we knew it was a marathon, not a sprint. In my view, the first release represented the first leg of the marathon. We clearly got through that leg in a very credible way. We have close to 27,000 apps in the marketplace, the best toolset, and amazingly high customer satisfaction. We would not have gotten to the table with Nokia if they didn’t believe we were in the race to win long term. We’re now in the middle phase of the marathon. This is where Microsoft’s stamina genes will come into play.

For me personally, I’m fundamentally an entrepreneur. In the businesses and products I’ve built at Microsoft I’ve done duty slogging it out in the middle and I’ve clearly proven I can finish, but at my core I’m best at getting things off the ground.

The Windows Phone Developer Ecosystem is in fantastic hands.  The team is built to execute like a well-oiled machine. Brandon Watson has just the right combination of spunk and data-driven execution skills needed for the job.  His team is awesome and I feel great about leaving them to finish the job.

Can you say more about your company (the name?), who else is involved, whether you’re getting funding, etc?

Kindel: Not really. We will be in stealth mode for some time. We are angel funded but not ready to disclose from who. I can say that I’m giddy with excitement about it! Other than a great core team, a great idea, and funding we have nothing. I love that!

If you build an app for your new company, which mobile platform will you target first? :)

Kindel: Hypothetically, if my new company were to build mobile apps, we’d target WP7 first. You know the old saying “Code Talks”:  I know I can build a beautiful and functional WP7 app in a fraction of the time it would take to build an iOS or Android app. Startups are about executing quickly. But I’m sure we’d quickly take what we learned there and apply it on all the popular devices.

Update, 10 a.m.: Here’s Kindel’s blog post on his departure, with the full text of his farewell message.

Comments

  • http://trollbox.com:3000 gstrock

    Microsoft, the innovating patent troll.

    • gstrock

      Your mom, the innovating patent troll. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/sharkaat Denis Jeleć

      Fascinating. Abundance of Linux trolls lately. Childish, no matter “whose side” you are on.

      • fasdfsa fsadfsaf

        Agreed. Even though I would describe myself as a “linux geek” I really couldn’t care less what operating systems other people use (people who I’ve never even met!).

        As long as you keep the hell off my face ranting about it use whatever you wish.

  • Guest

    Happy trails and best wishes to Charlie on his new venture!

  • Anonymous

    Good Luck Charlie!

  • Ektor

    I love my Samsung Focus! Specially for texting is awesome! 

  • Ektor

    I love my Samsung Focus! Specially for texting is awesome! 

  • Ektor

    I love my Samsung Focus! Specially for texting is awesome! 

  • Anonymous

    No loyalty at all in Silicon Valley now is there.

    http://www.anon-web.it.tc

  • Anonymous

    No loyalty at all in Silicon Valley now is there.

    http://www.anon-web.it.tc

  • Guest

    Wow, talk about horrible timing…

    • http://twitter.com/CarsonKuehne Carson Kuehne

      It’s actually probably the best timing possible. Pretty much all things Mango are set in stone. Now there is a little bit of footwork left that wouldn’t concern him much anyway. So if you could break Windows Phone development into chapters, this is as much of an end as a chapter as he would ever be able to see.

  • Guest

    So by WP GM, would we assume he had a lot to do with the $400M launch that has been a complete bust? The misguided marketing ads that spend more time talking about what the phone doesn’t do than showing what it does? The update process which has turned into a total fiasco? The pace of innovation whereby MS *might* get one major update out in its first year, bringing functionality closer to par with iOS and Android of last year, while Google is dropping updates every few months and Apple is getting out a couple every year? This is the best product MS has ever done? Seriously?!?

    I say good riddance to anyone who shoots so low. And $10 says in a year he’ll be running Android and singing its praises. These MS execs are all alike. Everything is the greatest until they leave. Then you find out what they really thought.

    • Another Guest

      “These MS execs are all alike. Everything is the greatest until they leave. Then you find out what they really thought.”

      Exactly. They “Stop using windows products” now that there’s no political reason to do so. That’s the problem — people are afraid to say the Emperor has no clothes!Use any product you want. If the MS version sucks, give feedback but don’t use the broken crap! The problem with dogfooding outside the team is you force everyone to suffer. I remember there were pushes to use Live Search (pre-Bing) instead of Google… is that loyalty or stupidity?

    • DevStar

      He was GM of the app platform for WP.  Nothing you said is related to what he does at all.  But nice try, thanks for playing the “Internet Troll Game”!

      • Guest

        What part of a question mark did you miss?

      • Paul

        What about the disastrous app marketplace? Also not his?

        • http://twitter.com/gtroberts GTRoberts

          Yes Paul… also nothing to do with Charlie. Charlie was “responsible” for helping developers themselves – not the marketplace, not the advertising, etc.

          • Paul

            Maybe everyone else should be leaving and Charlie staying then ;-)

          • Paul

            Maybe everyone else should be leaving and Charlie staying then ;-)

          • Paul

            Maybe everyone else should be leaving and Charlie staying then ;-)

  • Guest

    “For me personally, I’m fundamentally an entrepreneur.”

    Uh huh. Says a 21 year MS veteran. Wait till he finds out what really being an entrepreneur is like as opposed to playing one inside MS.

  • Guest

    How long before Andy Lees announces he’s leaving because he’s secretly a closet entrepreneur too?

  • Goneandalreadyforgotten

    I’m a little rusty on how these MS departure emails aren’t meant to go. And he did include the now obligatory(especially in EDD) cya of “my area, at least, is going great and I’m super confident MS should stick with this overall effort for years more despite the market reception”. But shouldn’t there have been some gratuitous praise for Andy Lee’s inspirational leadership of mobile? And shouldn’t Steveb have been singled out as yet another person he “learned everything he knows” from, or at least how bold he has been to ignore shareholders, analysts and the media and continue investing here? Also, isn’t mentioning really unpopular decisions, like Steve’s firing of Muglia, kind of non PC? Similarly, that Washington Husky memory was truly tasteless to include.

    • Anonymous Coward

      the really great news hidden in here is that Bencke (the genius behind the Kin $1.5bn debacle) is now at the helm. Microsoft’s secret plan for Mango must be to cater to the Russian developer community.  

      • Guest

        Get bored over at Slashdot?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ralph-Spurlock/100000343457156 Ralph Spurlock

    I sincerely hope that Microsoft makes a concerted effort to transplant googles domination of the web market. As a web developer having more than one site I feel compelled to state that my experiences with master google have been less than pleasant and this is a gross understatement.

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  • http://www.windowslivehelpnow.com/ Windows Live

    How long before Andy Lees announces he’s leaving because he’s secretly a closet entrepreneur too?

  • Aaron Evans

    Kindel “leaves” Microsoft to start a “company” who’s goal is to evangelize development on Windows Phone 7.5 apps, with investment money from Microsoft.  What’s the point of going through the motions of creating a separate company?

    What’s more Buddy.com is just a landing page with a bunch of broken links. Quick tip, remove the broken links and put them back in when you have content. 

  • http://duanedawnrae.com Duane Urban

    So he is the person responsible for making Windows Phone development so developer unfriendly! I used to jokingly think that once Bill Gates stepped down, Microsoft’s competitors had “plants” in the company to help take it down. Apparently I wasn’t too far off the mark. In politics you bribe officials by giving them zero work, high paying consulting positions once they leave office. In tech the bribes seem to be angel funding a startup. Interesting.

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