After 21 years, Charlie Kindel has left Microsoft to set up a company of his own. As far as I can remember from my days of having contacts with Microsoft, I’ve never met the man, but I know that he’s been a driving force behind some of the best consumer-focused projects within Microsoft.
The pity is that once he moved on to other projects within Microsoft, that focus on the consumer experience seems to have moved with him, and, in my opinion, the products he left behind have become moribund without his hand on the helm, or his support of the project in Microsoft’s executive circles.
Windows Media Center started out life in the days of the Windows XP operating system as Windows XP Media Center Edition, first available back in 2002. Later, Windows Media Center was included, as standard, in every copy of Windows for the home consumer since the days of Vista. So it’s there in Vista Home Premium and Windows 7 Home Premium. Yet I suspect that the majority of Windows users simply have no idea that it’s there or what it’s capable of. It’s left to a small band of enthusiasts who exploit WMC’s capabilities in their Home Entertainment or Home Theater systems. There have been no major new features added to WMC since 2008, and many enthusiasts fear that Microsoft will drop it altogether with the forthcoming introduction of Windows 8.
It’s been a similar story with Windows Home Server. Kindel led the development of the Q project (that became the first version of Windows Home Server released in 2007) with an absolute focus on the home consumer. He even went so far as to issue a set of guiding principles for the design of the storage system for WHS that were predicated on the needs of the home consumer. After the release of that first version of WHS, Kindel moved on. The WHS team got reorganised, and this year released the second version: Windows Home Server 2011. In the process, they effectively tore up Kindel’s guiding principles, and the result has been a product that while it bears the word “Home” in its title, is far less focused on the home consumer than the first version.
Kindel’s last project at Microsoft has been to lead the development of Windows Phone 7. I sincerely hope that with his departure that project will also not lose its way.