Tech

Microsoft's A.I. and research chief Harry Shum is leaving

Key Points
  • Shum spent 23 years at Microsoft, having joined Microsoft Research as a researcher in 1996.
  • He most recently ran Microsoft's Artificial Intelligence and Research group, which was formed in 2016.
  • Kevin Scott, Microsoft's technology chief, is taking 
Harry Shum, executive vice president of artificial intelligence and research at Microsoft Corp., speaks during the Microsoft Developers Build Conference in Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Wednesday, May 10, 2017.
David Ryder | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Microsoft said on Wednesday that Harry Shum, the executive vice president in charge of its artificial intelligence and research group, is leaving the company in early 2020. Kevin Scott, the company's chief technology officer and formerly a LinkedIn executive, is taking on Shum's responsibilities in addition to his own. It's not clear what Shum will do next.

Shum has been a figurehead in the more integrated approach to research that has taken hold at Microsoft during the tenure of CEO Satya Nadella, who replaced Steve Ballmer in 2014. His group has been one of the most prominent technology research institutions outside academia, alongside the likes of Google parent-company Alphabet and Facebook.

"Harry has had a profound impact on Microsoft. His contributions in the fields of computer science and AI leave a legacy and a strong foundation for future innovation. I want to thank him for his leadership and partnership, and for all he has done for Microsoft," Nadella said in a statement provided by a Microsoft spokesperson.

Microsoft traditionally kept its brightest minds cordoned off in research facilities, away from people working on products that ship to customers. Over time the company began doing more to involve researchers in product development. In 2016 Microsoft took the next step in an effort to speed up the process of converting research into products. It formed the AI and Research Group, bringing together researchers with people working on products, and put Shum at the helm.

Microsoft's Cortana virtual assistant came under his purview, among other things. The group swelled in size; by 2017 it had 8,000 people, GeekWire reported.

ZDNet reported the news about Shum's departure earlier on Wednesday.

Shum himself joined Microsoft in 1996 as a researcher working at the company's headquarters in Redmond, Washington. He later worked on Microsoft's Bing search engine. He will continue to advise Nadella and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates until he leaves, a spokesperson said.

WATCH: Bill Gates: If antitrust case hadn't happened, Microsoft would have built a phone operating system

VIDEO3:3503:35
Bill Gates: If not for antitrust case, Microsoft would have built a phone OS