Microsoft has closed down Pioneer Studios roughly three years after its launch, CNET reports. It was the creation of company executive J Allard, who announced his retirement just about a year ago along with Robbie Bach. Pioneer was established to develop outside the box ideas, though its failure to produce anything marketable coupled with Allard’s 2010 departure almost certainly fueled the decision to pull the plug.
The confirmation came from a Microsoft spokesperson, who said that the division’s offices have been emptied and that employees have either moved to other departments or left the company all together. In addition to contributing to the development of Windows Phone 7, Xbox 360 and Zune, Pioneer also worked on two notable, now-dead Microsoft projects, the dual screen Courier tablet and the discontinued Kin phones. Interestingly, the Courier cancellation came just a few weeks before Allard left the company and the Kin was taken out of production a little more than a month after he left. Without that creative force steering Pioneer, it simply sputtered out, as the newly confirmed closing illustrates.
Allard was a forward-thinking executive — the Chief Experience Officer — and one of Microsoft’s brightest talents during his time at the company. He foresaw the rise of the Internet in 1994 and is considered to be responsible for TCP/IP functionality being integrated into Windows 95. He also oversaw the development and launch of the original Xbox, Microsoft’s first (highly successful) crack at competing in the video game console space, and helped get the Zune media player off the ground.