This Soap Man Will Do Windows

Microsoft couldn't have made a more startling choice for its biggest new hire in years. Robert Herbold, named chief operating officer on Nov. 8, spent 26 years in Procter & Gamble's computer and ad departments. Yes, a Spic & Span brand manager will help direct the world of Windows and Excel.

Although he was general manager of an entire P&G business, Herbold, 52, will join CEO Bill Gates's elite strategy team, known internally as BOOP--Bill and the Office Of President. Gates is said to be excited, in part because gf his new exec's technical resume: A Ph.D. computer scientist, Herbold oversaw design of P&G's volume forecasting system. And his brand savvy will serve Microsoft well. As it enters home computing, Hervold says, Microsoft enters "the heart of [P&G]: meeting consumer needs."

Herbold even shares Gates's enthusiasm for the Info Highway. He has been trying to rally the ad industry to make sure it has a key role in interactive TV. And at P&G, the original soap opera sponsor, he has been exploring ways to back new interactive programs.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.