Is an Italian hottie the reason why Vista sucks?

In 2001, Brian Valentine, then a top Microsoft executive, was pumped about Windows XP, as a spoof infomercial shows. By the time Vista was getting ready for release, his enthusiasm had waned. The reason? Some believe he was pining for Gianna Puerini, a sales manager who had left Microsoft for Amazon.com in 2003. In July 2006, Valentine secretly signed an employment contract with Amazon.com. Microsoft did not reveal that he was leaving for Amazon.com until September 5, less than a week before he started his new job. The business rationale for hiding his departure was obvious: Valentine ran the team that was shipping its Windows Vista operating system. Losing their leader would have killed morale.

In retrospect, it's obvious that Valentine's lack of motivation was reflected in the final product. Even Bill Gates has conceded Vista's failure now, and there's talk that Microsoft will replace it with an early release of Windows Seven, Vista's successor. It's hard to imagine Valentine, or anyone, making a video about Vista that's anything like the Windows XP promotion below:

So who is this woman for whom Valentine dumped Microsoft? A filing with the SEC reveals that Puerini was the "housemate" of Valentine mentioned, but not named, in a similar filing last year. Puerini, Amazon's director of user retail experience, just got a $1 million stock grant, an amount the company says is similar to the compensation earned by other employees at her level. So lets grant that she's smart. Her Facebook profile photo, reproduced above, suggests she's good-looking as well. A catch for Valentine, and apparently worth leaving Microsoft in the middle of completing its most important product.

Has the couple shipped their own product? Puerini has a baby registry for an arrival dated last September. The pair also have a wedding registry on the site — but it's labeled as a test. On it, Puerini writes: "ABOUT THE COUPLE: This is a test registry. I am not getting married. I have no plans to get married. I repeat - this is a test! :-)" The baby registry may therefore also be a test.

One thing Valentine and Puerini have definitely done as a couple: donate an amount between $25,000 and $250,000 to Washington State University (PDF).