Microsoft replaces Mac GM with 12-year veteran

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Microsoft announced on Friday that Eric Wilfrid will take over as the general manager of its Mac Business Unit. Wilfrid replaces Craig Eisler, who has moved to an unspecified position in Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices division after 14 months at the helm of Microsoft’s Mac team.

“I’m really excited to be in this role, after working for 12 years with this team,” said Wilfrid, a 14-year Microsoft veteran who’s been with the Mac BU since its creation in 1997. He started out as a programmer working on Microsoft PowerPoint, and after joining the Mac BU, worked on five releases of Office for Mac, as well as contributing to the Mac versions of MSN, Internet Explorer, and Virtual PC. He rose through the ranks through the years, becoming a development lead, group program manager, and most recently the manager of the company’s California-based Mac development team.

“I’ve just recently moved to Redmond and I’m super excited for what’s to come,” Wilfrid told Macworld. Microsoft’s Mac Business unit, the largest collection of Mac developers outside Apple, has development centers in Mountain View, Calif.; Redmond, Wash.; and Beijing, China.

Craig Eisler, Wilfrid’s predecessor, had served as general manager of the Mac BU since June 2007, when he replaced former general manager Roz Ho, who had held the position since 2002. Like Eisler, Ho moved on to work for the Entertainment & Devices division, and has since become Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President, Premium Mobile Experiences. Wilfrid characterized Eisler’s move as a “recognition of the Mac BU’s success.”

Though he’s the third person to head the Mac BU since June 2007, Wilfrid said the Mac team remains stable and focused. “I don’t worry about that at all,” he added.

Wilfrid acknowledged that the Mac BU’s current focus is on planning the development of the next version of Microsoft Office for Mac. Little is known about that version, other than that it will include support for Visual Basic missing from the current version of Office.

“We’re hard at work, but it’s far enough away that there isn’t really anything detailed to share,” he said. “We’re working hard on listening to our customers.” Wilfrid also pointed out that Microsoft continues to release updates to Office 2008, the latest of which was released Thursday.

Wilfrid also expressed enthusiasm about the possibilities for Mac users in Microsoft’s recent announcement that the next version of Office for Windows would include lightweight versions of the apps that would be delivered via Web browser, including compatibility for Safari and Firefox.

“There are a ton of interesting possibilities there,” he said. “It’ll be really exciting to see how the Mac BU can plug into that technology.”

Everyone knows that the relationship between Apple and Microsoft has had its ups and downs over the years, but Wilfrid said that his division and Apple are working quite well together. “It’s fantastic—we continue to enjoy a really strong relationship with Apple,” he said. “I’ve already been down to Cupertino.”

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