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Doug Hebenthal

Doug Hebenthal, who helped create the Xbox game console and the original Zune media player, has left the company after 21 years. We’re told he’s planning to join Amazon.com, and we’ve reached out to him to learn more about the role he’s taking on at the online retailer.

“Over the last nearly 22 years I have been involved with, impacted, and in some cases instigated major life changing experiences, world changing products, and I have built lifelong friendships,” Hebenthal writes in an email to colleagues and friends. “This has been an amazing ride.  But like all amazing rides, it has to come to an end sometime and now is my time.”

He adds in a blog post:

“I wish my friends and Microsoft all the best!  You never know, someday we may work together again, we may change the world again, we may just find that magic moment when all the stars align and you can’t help but smile.”

Hebenthal also shares a bunch of stories about the old days at Microsoft, including this recount of his time getting Zune off the ground.

After Xbox 360 shipped I moved to Zune, the single hardest 6 months of my career.  “Landing a 747 on a postage stamp” is the way I described the project, but it was amazing to be a part of such a passionate team. Leading that project to the finish line was an impossible task, and those are the ones I relish the most.  The impact that Zune has had on Microsoft, not in terms of sales or success, but in terms of culture, product design, and how Microsoft thinks about consumers cannot be over sold.  Those that are leading the charge now probably don’t even know that many of the great ideas that are manifested today in Windows Phone, Windows 8, Xbox and more started in Zune.

Amazon.com continues to gobble up talent from both the startup and big company ranks in Seattle, and Hebenthal’s addition is the latest example. Among other Microsofties who’ve made the leap to Amazon are Brian Valentine (Senior Vice President of Ecommerce Platform) and Brandon Watson (who is leading the charge on Kindle Apps).

It is hard to compete with Amazon’s stock price, which is up 142 percent in the past five years. (Microsoft is down 21 percent in the same period).

Amazon.com also is expanding into a host of new areas, including tablets, publishing and video game development.

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