The departure of a number of high-level Microsoft executives who worked on Vista is probably connected to the operating system's perceived failures, analysts have suggested.

Prompted by the news that Will Poole, a 12-year company veteran who until mid-2007 was responsible for the client version of Windows, has departed, several analysts weighed in on recent resignations.

Rob Helm of Directions on Microsoft claimed that the departure of Poole and others wasn't unusual enough to warrant concern. It certainly didn't meet his definition of "brain drain." But he, along with Michael Gartenberg of JupiterResearch and Michael Silver, who covers Microsoft for Gartner, mentioned Vista in the next breath.

"With the launch of Vista, there was a new broom," said Helm. "There were a number of people who moved out, or were moved out, of [the] Windows [group] in the wake of Vista. Some of them have decided to move on out of the company.

"In a big company like Microsoft, they never run people out on a rail," said Helm. Instead, people leave when they're not happy with the project they've been assigned after a reshuffle. "Maybe they don't get run out or town, but they move on," he added.

Among the executives with responsibilities during Vista's development and launch, several have left Microsoft since early 2007, beginning with Jim Allchin, who after 17 years retired the day Vista debuted. Allchin, then the co-president of the company's platforms and services division, had been responsible for the development and delivery of Vista.

Other Vista hands who have recently left Microsoft include Michael Sievert, a 2005 hire who led Windows product marketing before and after Vista's release, and Rob Short, a 19-year veteran who headed the Windows Core group.

Although none of the three analysts would link specific departures to Vista's bumps and bruises, both Gartenberg and Silver mentioned Poole. "Maybe it wasn't completely unsurprising," said Silver, "but when Poole was moved to run the Unlimited Potential group, that didn't sound like a promotion." As part of a general reorganisation of the Windows group in March 2006, Poole was shifted to run a unit created to focus on Windows in emerging markets and new devices.

"When you have a product that hasn't lived up to its potential, that could be playing a role here," said Silver, talking about the departures. "I think there's some acceptance that there is a need for a change in [the] Windows [groups]."

Gartenberg echoed Silver. "This raises the question of who will be the next generation of Windows leadership," he said. "What happens next for Microsoft and how do they try to drive acceptance of Windows going forward?

"How are they going to fix the [public] perception of Vista?"