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John Thompson

John Thompson wasn’t the most biting Microsoft critic of all time — there are plenty of others who deserve that title, and as the CEO of security software company Symantec, Thompson was in the tricky position of needing to partner with Microsoft, as well. But he did take his share of swipes at the Redmond company, particularly as Microsoft encroached on Symantec’s turf with its own security software.

“We aren’t distracted by computer games and a host of unrelated security stuff going on,” Thompson said during a public appearance in 2005, alluding to Microsoft and saying the company appeared “genetically incapable” of offering a security solution for systems beyond Windows.

Symantec even sued Microsoft during Thompson’s tenure in an attempt to stop the Windows Vista release, claiming intellectual property violations.

Meet Microsoft’s newest board member. The company today named Thompson as its newest director, returning the board to 10 members. Thompson stepped down as Symantec CEO in 2009 and is now the CEO of Virtual Instruments and a Silicon Valley investor.

“John has extraordinary technology and business expertise, and we are delighted that he is joining Microsoft’s board of directors,” says Microsoft chairman Bill Gates in a news release.

Adds Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, “John brings a wealth of experience, from enterprise customers to individual consumers, as well as the insights that come from running a successful large global software company and a fast-emerging startup. He will be a great addition to our board.”

Thompson is quoted in the release, “I am honored to join the Microsoft board and work with this exceptional team. Microsoft has been a leader across the entire information technology landscape for decades, and I look forward to sharing my experiences and contributing to the future direction and growth of this global leader.”

It might not be the massive board overhaul that some investors want, but it sure would be fascinating to be a fly on the wall as Thompson settles in for his first few board meetings.

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