REDMOND, Washington: Microsoft has appointed Qi Lu (pictured) as president of its Online Services Group, just weeks after he stepped down from his position as evp of engineering, search and advertising technology at the company's former takeover target, Yahoo.

Lu will replace Kevin Johnson, a central figure in the on–off merger between the two online giants, and who left Microsoft earlier this year to join technology company Juniper Networks

Lu holds a PhD in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University and spent ten years at Yahoo. He previously worked as a researcher for IBM.

According to Microsoft ceo Steve Ballmer: "Dr. Lu's deep technical expertise, leadership capabilities and hard-working mentality are well known in the technology industry."

Some observers suggest that Lu's experience of Yahoo's search capabilities could be crucial if the two companies do eventually agree on a search deal, especially as Microsoft is still thought to be eager.

Youssef Squali, an analyst at investment bank Jefferies & Company says: "It will make the prospects of any integration that much easier."

However, Frank Shaw, a Microsoft spokesman, gave a subtle variant on the typical "no comment", saying simply: "There is nothing new with regard to Yahoo."

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff