End of an era: Microsoft's Joe Belfiore to take leave of absence

One of the most-admired members of the Windows team, Belfiore will take off until summer 2016 to go on an adventure with his family

End of an era: Microsoft's Joe Belfiore to take leave of absence
Melissa Riofrio

Joe Belfiore's been out of the limelight the past couple of weeks, but it still came as a shock to see his latest Facebook post, announcing that he's taking a personal leave of absence starting in November and extending to next summer.

After dreaming about the idea for years… and with our kids getting ALMOST too old for something crazy… we've decided that we are going to take our family on the EDUCATIONAL TRIP OF OUR LIFETIME.

In January -- we're heading out on SEMESTER AT SEA for a journey around the world, along with 600+ college students and a handful of faculty and "lifelong learners" like us.

We think a floating college campus will be an amazing environment for everyone in our family to get a chance to see and experience the diversity all around the world and better appreciate what we have here. We've coveted the opportunity to spend a lot of time with each other and our kids -- and we're taking advantage of it while we can!

Belfiore's been at Microsoft for 25 years, starting as a program manager on OS/2 shortly after graduating from Stanford.

He led the user interface work for IE3 and IE4, then became vice president of Zune Software and Service. Mobile's in his blood.

Belfiore was in charge of the Windows XP user interface effort (yes, XP), then moved to Media Center, and led the group that designed the Windows Phone UI.

He moved over to Windows with the Myerson takeover and has been a key member of the group that brought us Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. You've probably seen him in one of the hundreds of Windows 10 videos, in which he truly comes through as a star.

To understand Belfiore, you have to understand The Game.

Belfiore insists he'll come back to Microsoft and rejoin the Windows effort:

As for me and my job… when the trip is over, I'll be right back at it! I'm proud to have spent the last 25 years working for a thoughtful and considerate company here at Microsoft. It's a company and community whose values align with mine and whose management has been completely supportive of me and my family in pursuing this idea. I'm taking an extended personal leave-of-absence starting in November: we're gonna visit family and show the kids the great cities of the northeast US before we leave on the ship. I'll be back at MS in my same job working on Windows next summer, in time for the kids to get back into the normal US school routine.

All I know is that it's very, very rare for a Microsoft exec to go on sabbatical, then return to make significant contributions to the company. Pity, that.

We wish you well, Joe. You've earned it.

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