Kara Swisher

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Yahoo Confirms Hiring of Former Microsoft Exec Blake Irving as Chief Product Officer

Yahoo said it has hired former Microsoft exec Blake Irving (pictured here) as its chief product officer.

Reporting directly to CEO Carol Bartz, Yahoo (YHOO) said in a statement, Irving will “lead the company’s products organization, which is responsible for the vision, strategy, design and development of Yahoo!’s global consumer and advertiser product portfolio.”

In other words, the exec many think the company desperately needs to spur innovation.

Irving replaces Ari Balogh, who announced last week he is leaving the company as of June 3.

Balogh was also CTO, but Yahoo did not say who would get that title.

In related news, Prabhakar Raghavan, head of Yahoo Labs as chief scientist, will now report directly to Bartz.

The Yahoo announcement confirms a post BoomTown wrote last week about the company’s effort to hire Irving, a longtime Microsoft (MSFT) exec whose last job there was corporate VP of its Windows Live Platform group.

He left the software giant several years ago to spend time with his family and had been teaching at Pepperdine University.

Irving had been at Microsoft for 15 years, always commuting to its Redmond, Wash., headquarters.

According to his Facebook page, Irving now lives in laid-back San Luis Obispo, midway between Silicon Valley and Los Angeles.

Sources said after time off, Irving had recently become eager to re-engage in the Internet sector.

Yahoo has long wanted to hire Irving, many said. And in nabbing him, the timing is fortuitous, as the company is in the midst of launching its massive search and online advertising partnership with Microsoft.

The hiring also stems the tide of Yahoo’s exec exodus. Balogh’s parting is one of many among top Yahoo execs recently. Ad sales head Joanne Bradford departed the company to join Demand Media, while longtime tech exec Ash Patel said he would not return from a sabbatical he took last year.

Here’s Irving’s post on his own hire on Yahoo’s Yodel Anecdotal blog:

Yodeling Hello to Yahoo!

As the newest Yahoo! employee, at the risk of being highly corny, I’m delighted to yodel my first purple-hued shout-out to the 600 million people and tens of thousands of advertisers and publishers who enjoy Yahoo!’s products every day.

Some of you might ask why anyone would say goodbye to surfing and cycling the Central Coast of California or travelling the globe with their family to take on the job of leading products and technology at Yahoo! My answer’s pretty easy–meet just some of the brilliant people at Yahoo! that want to change the world, and then scan the amazing list of leading products around the globe these people have delivered at scale. When I think about what this company has meant to anyone who has used the Internet, worked in the Internet industry, or wanted to reach people across the world, there is simply none better.

From wildly popular services like Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Messenger, Flickr and Yahoo!’s mobile sites and apps, to Yahoo!’s best-in-class content properties like Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Finance and Yahoo! Sports, to many, many other great products across the world, Yahoo!’s product portfolio continues to be the envy of the industry. Those incredible services and their respective audiences bring tremendous value for advertisers, which is why Yahoo! serves up 10 billion ads across its network every day and is the #1 publisher of online display advertising. How can anyone not want to be a part of that?

And that’s just what consumers and advertisers see from the outside. Inside Yahoo!, there’s technological and scientific brilliance everywhere you look. With 500 patents, one of the world’s largest cloud computing infrastructures, and top scientific talent across computer science, machine learning, economics and social sciences, I’m awed at the caliber of people I’m going to be working with. The intellectual horsepower doesn’t stop there–I’m looking forward to working with some of the smartest and best-in-class talent around the world in marketing, advertising sales, partnerships, programming, service engineering and operations. The commitment Yahoos have shown over the years to delivering the best experience to both consumers and advertisers is one of the key things that attracted me here. We’re in the business of delivering bespoke experiences to our consumers, partners and advertisers and I’m looking forward to working with all of you to build on that reality.

This week marks an exciting new journey for me personally, and I’m thrilled to be sharing my experiences and background with the world class people at Yahoo! We have big opportunities, as well as big challenges ahead of us, and I’m getting ready to dive in and work with this great team to make Yahoo! even more central to daily online life than it has been over the past decade and a half.

My first day in the office will be May 17th and I can’t wait to get started. Stay tuned for more as I get settled and dig in with my new team.

‘Nuff said.

–By Blake Irving, Future Chief Product Officer, Yahoo!

And here’s the official press release:

Blake Irving Joins Yahoo! as Chief Product Officer

Chief Scientist Position, Held by Prabhakar Raghavan, Elevated to Report to CEO Bartz

Sunnyvale, California–April 19, 2010–Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO) today announced the appointment of Blake Irving as Chief Product Officer. In related news, Prabhakar Raghavan will continue to lead innovation efforts at Yahoo! Labs as Chief Scientist. Both Irving and Raghavan will report directly to Carol Bartz, CEO. This new leadership will focus on speeding key inputs and decision making into product strategy and direction.

Ari Balogh, current head of products and technology, will be leaving the company on June 3 for personal reasons and will work closely with Irving to ensure a smooth transition. Irving will assume the position on May 17.

“Blake brings to Yahoo! genuine large scale Internet expertise from a mature company known for world-class technology. In addition, Prabhakar has invaluable technological insights and expertise that I look forward to having my executive team hear more directly,” said Bartz. “With leaders like Blake and Prabhakar, I am confident that we will increase technological innovation and deliver against our vision to be the center of people’s online lives.”

“Yahoo! has an impressive product and technology portfolio that has provided unparalleled value to its customers at scale,” said Irving. “I look forward to working with the team to bring forward more unique and highly personal experiences to Yahoo! consumers, deliver on the company’s promise of Science, Art and Scale to Yahoo! advertisers, and develop the amazing talent at the company so we may continue to deliver more and faster innovations to the market.”

As Chief Product Officer, Irving will lead the company’s products organization, which is responsible for the vision, strategy, design and development of Yahoo!’s global consumer and advertiser product portfolio.

Irving was most recently a professor at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management in Malibu, California. In his prior role as corporate vice president of the Windows Live Platform group, Irving led a team of 4,000 to build and operate Microsoft’s Internet-scale services platform, advertiser and developer ecosystem. Irving also held a variety of development and general management positions at Microsoft.

Before joining Microsoft, Irving held development and product marketing management positions at Xerox Corp., Oki Electric Industry Co. Ltd. and Compaq Computer Corp. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Diego State University and a Master’s degree in business administration from Pepperdine University.

Raghavan joined Yahoo! in 2005, and serves as Chief Scientist and head of Yahoo! Labs. Raghavan’s research priorities include text and web mining, and algorithm design. Prior to joining Yahoo!, Raghavan was the chief technology officer at Verity and held a number of technical and managerial positions at IBM Research. He is a consulting professor of Computer Science at Stanford University and former editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Association of Computing Machinery. He has co-authored two textbooks on randomized algorithms and information retrieval. Raghavan received his PhD from Berkeley and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, as well as a fellow of the ACM and of the IEEE.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus