Forest Key is leading Microsoft into uncharted territory for the software giant: the land of professional design tools. After years of continual leadership in the developer tools space, Microsoft is marching in with a set of tools for designers, having announced its Expression suite last month.
Key, who is director of product management for Microsoft's design tools, is indicative of the new breed of Microsoft employee. He is steeped in the designer world and has worked as both a creator and a user of the technology. Key previously worked at Macromedia— which has since been acquired by Adobe Systems, one of the primary companies Microsoft will be competing with in its new push—on the Flash platform.
It is no secret that when Microsoft wants to enter a new market it goes out and gets the talent to make its move credible and to swiftly produce a viable first offering. It did so in the enterprise operating system space, hiring folks like Dave Cutler from Digital Equipment Corp. and others from IBM, it has done so in the search and Web services spaces with strategic hires, and it is doing so again in the design tools space with folks like Forest Key.
Key is an artsy fellow who speaks of a passion to both enable designers and developers through new, better tools, and also witness the products and content those tools can help to create.
"In tools, you live for enabling capability in others—to be able to say, 'We made that possible,'" Key told eWEEK in an interview on Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., campus.