Microsoft scored a major victory when it poached longtime Amazon exec Charlie Bell, but the fight to use him may be just getting started.
Charlie Bell was a 23-year veteran of Amazon and a leading candidate to replace Andy Jassy as AWS CEO when the latter replaced Jeff Bezos as Amazon’s CEO. Needless to say, Bell surprised many when he accepted employment at Microsoft, Amazon’s main cloud competitor.
Initially, Bell was listed as reporting to executive vice president and HR head Kathleen Hogan, an odd place for a veteran cloud executive to land. As we mentioned in our coverage, the listing was likely temporary until an official announcement could be made.
It appears Bell has now been given an official role, at least in name, leading the newly formed Security, Compliance, Identity, and Management team. He made the announcement on LinkedIn.
I’m thrilled to join Microsoft to take on one of the greatest challenges of our time, leading a newly formed engineering organization: Security, Compliance, Identity, and Management. As digital services have become an integral part of our lives, we’re outstripping our ability to provide security and safety. It’s constantly highlighted in the headlines we see every day: fraud, theft, ransomware attacks, public exposure of private data, and even attacks against physical infrastructure. This has been weighing on my mind and the best way I can think to describe it is “digital medievalism,” where organizations and individuals each depend on the walls of their castles and the strength of their citizens against bad actors who can simply retreat to their own castle with the spoils of an attack.
Bell also had high praise for his new employer, and its ability to help address these challenges.
We all want a world where safety is an invariant, something that is always true, and we can constantly prove we have. We all want digital civilization. I believe Microsoft is the only company in a position to deliver this and I couldn’t be more excited to work with this talented team to make the world safer for every person and organization on the planet.
The elephant in the room, however, is how Amazon will respond. The company is notorious for suing employees that leave for rival companies, citing the non-compete agreements they signed.
Microsoft, along with CEO Satya Nadella, hinted at the potential issues Amazon might raise.
“We’re sensitive to the importance of working through these issues together, as we’ve done when five recent Microsoft executives moved across town to work for Amazon,” Microsoft said in a statement, according to Bloomberg.
Nadella told employees in an email that Bell would start in his new role when “a resolution is reached with his former employer.”
Microsoft’s statement is an interesting choice of words, drawing attention to how it handled losing five of its own executives to Amazon. The not-so-subtle implication being that Amazon should tread carefully lest Microsoft give it a taste of its own medicine.