Ina Fried

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Exclusive: Microsoft Replaces Lees as Head of Windows Phone Business

Microsoft is moving the current head of its Windows Phone business, Andy Lees, to a new role, AllThingsD has learned.

Terry Myerson, the corporate VP who has led engineering efforts for the phone unit, will add business development, marketing and other responsibilities. He will not, at least for now, though, get the division president title that Lees had.

Lees, who has headed Windows Phone for more than three years, will still report to CEO Steve Ballmer and focus on ways Microsoft can work across multiple types of devices from phones to slates to PCs. Although Lees will retain the title of president, it’s not clear who will report to him in the new role.

“I have asked Andy Lees to move to a new role working for me on a time-critical opportunity focused on driving maximum impact in 2012 with Windows Phone and Windows 8,” Ballmer said in an internal memo seen by AllThingsD. “We have tremendous potential with Windows Phone and Windows 8, and this move sets us up to really deliver against that potential.”

Ballmer noted at the company’s analyst meeting in September that Windows Phone sales haven’t been what the company had hoped. Despite positive reviews, Microsoft has yet to gain significant market share with Windows Phone.

However, as one might expect in a corporate memo, Ballmer had praise for Lees’ efforts.

“In the three years Andy has been leading the phone group, we’ve come a long way,” Ballmer said. “We reset our strategy, built a strong team that delivered [Windows Phone 7] and [the Mango update] and created critical new partnerships and ecosystem around Windows Phone. That is a ton of progress in a brief period of time, and I’m excited for Terry and team to keep driving forward and for Andy to dig into a new challenge.”

Terry Myerson

The next year is shaping up to be critical for Microsoft’s phone effort, particularly now that key partner Nokia is releasing its first Windows Phone devices.

I had a chance to grill Lees at AsiaD on a number of topics, including the fact that Microsoft would appear to be getting more revenue these days from patent license royalties on Android phones than it does selling its own software.

As for Myerson, he’s a past head of the Exchange team who has been at the company since 1997, when Microsoft bought Intersé Corporation, a company Myerson founded.

Myerson was part of a team brought in to overhaul Microsoft’s phone software in the wake of the success of the iPhone. In addition to being well known within the company, he is tight with various partners, including the folks at Nokia, with whom he went snow-shoeing last March.

Update, 7:30 p.m. PT: Nokia, for its part, praised the leadership of Windows Phone, both past and future.

“We are grateful for Andy’s support and commitment in getting Nokia’s Lumia range into the market, on schedule,” Executive VP Jo Harlow said in a statement to AllThingsD. “We would like to thank him for his hard work and wish him well in his new ventures at Microsoft. We have been working closely with Terry and are looking forward to collaborating with him more broadly.”

Harlow and Myerson are both alums of Duke University (although they graduated at different times). Earlier this year, Nokia presented the pair with their own Nokia phones emblazoned with Duke’s Blue Devil mascot.

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