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To help it compete, Microsoft has been raiding Internet rivals and hiring people such as Flake, one of 14 Microsoft employees honored with the corporate distinction of "technical fellow." Flake and his colleagues at the meeting last month have already demonstrated they get the Internet. They included Steve Berkowitz, a former chief executive of the Internet search company Ask.com who became Microsoft's senior vice president for online services, and Debra Chrapaty, a former president of the E-Trade Group Inc. who is now Microsoft's vice president for Windows Live operations.
"Our products on the Internet are not today where they should be," said Flake, a 39-year-old with a strong, stubby jaw and even stronger opinions. "Part of the reason it's not there is because we've been focusing on a lot of different things."
Still, Flake said, he voted with his feet on the future of Microsoft. Early last year, he uprooted his family from California, where he had run research and development for Yahoo Inc., for a job in Redmond overseeing the laboratory that is developing Microsoft's online products. "The company is redefining and reinventing itself," he said.