Microsoft top executive Paul Maritz has resigned after 14 years with the company.
The sudden departure comes hot on the heels of a massive internal re-organisation in which Maritz was passed over for the job of co-ordinating Microsoft's .net project.
Maritz had been part of many important software developments and .net, which involves next generation Internet technologies, had been billed as crucial to Microsoft's future success.
Other leading executives have left over the past 12 months, including chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold and chief financial officer Greg Maffei.
Analysts have warned that Maritz's departure may herald a new direction for Microsoft's application service provider development which could conflict with the company's plans for .net.