Windows Phone management shakeup at the top: Lees out, Meyerson moves up

Ina Fried at All Things D is reporting that Windows Phone President Andy Lees is moving to a new position in the company, to work directly for Steve Ballmer on new opportunities for Windows Phone and Windows 8, according to a memo seen by the Wall Street Journal’s tech blog:

“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.”

Lees’ job as head of the Windows Phone division will be taken over by Corporate Vice President of Windows Phone Engineering Terry Meyerson, who has been with Microsoft since 1997.  While Microsoft is known to give upper level executives a kind of a soft push out the door (remember Ray Ozzie’s “special projects” he was supposed to be working on?), there could be some strategic advantage to moving Lees to be more directly involved with the move to a Windows 8 core for the next version of Windows Phone, especially if Microsoft plans on shipping it by mid-year.

What’s interesting about the memo (which Mary Jo Foley posted), is the idea of a “time-critical opportunity” for Windows Phone and Windows 8.  That statement seems to verify the rumors of an “Apollo” release next year, something that Nokia and the other hardware manufacturers are certain to be pushing hard for.  Microsoft needs an NFC enabled, fully LTE compliant Windows Phone, one that makes the next leap forward in smartphone operating systems, and the sooner the better.  Whatever Lees hand in it will be, Microsoft appears to be doubling down efforts to make that happen.