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Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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December 10, 2008 7:39 AM

Profile: Qi Lu, Microsoft's incoming Online Services Group president

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Check out this profile of Qi Lu, the former Yahoo search executive who is taking over a critical group at Microsoft in January, from today's paper. Also, after the jump, Microsoft has published its own Q&A with Lu, covering his reasons for coming to Microsoft, how Steve Ballmer recruited him, what opportunities he sees for Microsoft in search and more.

If Microsoft has to climb over or through Yahoo to get to Google in the Internet search business, there are few people better positioned than Qi Lu to lead the way.

Named last week as president of Microsoft's Online Services Group, Lu brings with him practically the entire history of Yahoo's search efforts.

"Qi was there from the very beginning," said a former Yahoo colleague who worked closely with him for several years and agreed to speak about Lu and his role at Yahoo only on condition of anonymity.

In interviews, this person and several others who have worked with or observed Lu since his arrival at Carnegie Mellon University in the late 1980s described an intense man with a powerful intellect and "voracious" appetite for work, who earned the loyalty and respect of other very smart people.

Lu, 47, is private, polite and modest, his former colleagues said, but they could recall few nonwork interests apart from family and classical music.

And even that took a back seat to the technical podcasts he would listen to while commuting in a white, early 1990s Chevrolet Geo his former Yahoo colleague called a "tin-can bucket car."

Read the whole story.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has published a Q&A with Qi Lu this morning. Some excerpts:

  • He came to Microsoft because he feels this will be the best position for him to have maximum impact.

  • He praised the company and its people.

  • CEO Steve Ballmer recruited him during a meeting in a San Jose hotel in September:

"We spent almost half a day talking. We talked about the competitive landscape, about the possibility to really innovate and take the user experience [of Microsoft's search capabilities] to the next level, and about creating a more competitive space, particularly in the search space. We all believe that it's better for everybody involved when we have a healthy, more competitive environment.

"Two things he said really stood out. First was the level of commitment on investment. Steve made it very clear how he views that as critical for the long-term future of Microsoft, and his strong commitment to invest in R&D resources is very, very important to me.

"The other thing Steve said that helped convince me this was the right thing for me to do was his commitment to product quality, because you compete in the marketplace on the strength of the product that you bring to the market. You must have a strong commitment to protect the quality of the user experience in the product that you build."

  • He sees "a genuine opportunity to take [Microsoft's] search products to the next level. ... The second opportunity is to continue building a very powerful advertising platform."

  • Is Google "catchable"? "[W]e're here to win ... But make no mistake; I think Google is a very, very powerful company. They are definitely ahead in the search space. There are a lot of challenges ahead. We've got our work cut out for us."

  • His first priority when he starts in January will be working out. "Usually I get up reasonably early and try to hit the gym." But he's got business focused plans for the rest of that day.

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