Last updated September 25, 2012
I was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, but after 7 years of gradual relocation across the country, grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. I attended the University of Waterloo, and during my time as a co-op student worked for around 1 1/2 as a systems programmer hacking MVS for a large bank. I also did a year and a half long stint as a grad student in mathematical physics before deciding that it wasn't for me and getting a job with a development tools company called Watcom. I didn’t think I’d see another convocation at Waterloo, but I was summoned back in June of 2009 (20 years after the last time – wow time flies) to receive the J.W. Graham Medal in Computing and Innovation – go figure.
I was at Watcom for about 3 years (from 1990 to 1993) where I worked on debuggers, compilers and even a 32-bit Windows Extender (which people cared about in 1991 and is as irrelevant to technology today as Loverboy is to music). Watcom was eventually acquired by Sybase, and all the old Watcom tools code is now available under open source from OpenWatcom.org.
While at Watcom, I became friends with a Technical Evangelist named Eric Engstrom who talked me me into interviewing at Microsoft, and before I knew it, I ended up moving to Redmond, WA in June of 1993, where I worked for the Windows Marketing group as a Technical Evangelist. A little less than a year later I moved to the Windows 95 team to work on Multimedia. After working on some projects related to games & high performance multimedia, a couple of friends (Alex St. John and Eric) & I got frustrated with what was being done and started work on something that was briefly know as the Game SDK for Windows 95, but we called it DirectX by the time we shipped the first version. I was the development manager of Direct X from the inception until half way through version 5. Eric & I filed for a few patents related to DirectX along the way. I blogged about my DirectX memories here.
The internet push for Microsoft got into full gear by late 96/early 97, and I went to focus on Internet Multimedia, where we worked on inserting a lot of cool high-end 3D into Internet Explorer. After Internet Multimedia, I was the general manager of the Windows Media Platform Group from April of 1998 (it was called Netshow when I first took the job) until I left Microsoft in January of 2000.
I was the CEO of a Redmond based wireless software company, Action Engine, from January of 2000 until March of 2004. It was a great experience - raised around $35. 5 million over the 4+ years, built a ground-breaking client-server platform that was deployed by wireless operators around the globe, and drove significant revenue growth along the way. I was even a Seattle 40 under 40 winner; of course, that was back in the good old days when I was actually under 40.
Right before I left Action Engine in early 2004, I did an interview with UW TV that goes through most of the above.
In June of 2004, I moved back east to Virginia and joined America Online (a subsidiary of Time Warner, where I kicked off the company's standardized cloud platform efforts before focusing on wireless once again - from early 2005 until I left AOL, I was the general manager of the AOL Wireless group. On August 8th, 2005, AOL announced the acquisition of Wildseed and the formation of AOL Wireless. There was a quite a bit of press coverage, here is a sample: Reuters USA Today The Register Seattle PI Seattle Times.
We did a lot of really fun stuff in AOL Wireless, like launching new WAP services, launching XT9, expanding the reach of mobile AIM, making it easy to migrate from the desktop to mobile, and my favorite thing, the launch at CES 2007 of our Smartscreens portable media hardware & software reference design with Haier America (more detail was provided in Haier's CTIA announcement).
I left AOL in February 2007 to rejoin Microsoft - for me, it looks like all roads lead to the world's largest software maker (even if it means moving across the country and back again). After spending a couple of months investigating different options inside the Entertainment & Devices Division, I became the General Manager of the Macintosh Business Unit, where I got to have a blast working with a great team shipping Office 2008 for Mac and helping to set the course for the next version of Office for Mac.
In March of 2009, I became responsible for Microsoft's Entertainment Client Software group. We shipped Media Center for Windows 7, brought the Zune Service to Xbox (now Xbox Video and Xbox Music) and the PC, and shipped the Windows Phone PC companion app - and along the journey, improved our content pipeline and brought our entertainment service to multiple new countries.
A reorg struck in early 2011 that gave me what I consider the coolest opportunity in my career - I was given the charter to build a team from scratch and bring Kinect to the Windows ecosystem. It's been a hell of a ride these past 18 months - the team has scaled up, we've shipped 3 major versions of our software stack and brought the hardware into 38 countries. And this is only the beginning. I believe in a future where computing moves into the background and where computers learn us, we don't learn them. Like Star Trek, only better. Check out our blog!