Microsoft shutters Pioneer Studios, we pour one out for J Allard

It's been about a year since he left Microsoft, but the J Allard era came to a more definitive close yesterday, with the shuttering of his brainchild, Pioneer Studios. Microsoft opened the incubation lab more than three years ago as an entrepreneurial space where designers could toy around with new consumer technologies. The tragically shelved Courier tablet was first developed within Pioneer's exposed brick walls, where Allard and his Alchemy Ventures team also worked on the Xbox, Zune and Windows Phone 7. Now, however, a Microsoft spokeswoman has confirmed that the downtown Seattle office is no longer occupied, telling CNET that many of the lab's employees have either left, or moved on to different positions within the company. Pioneer co-founder Georg Petschnigg left Microsoft in April to pursue an "undisclosed new venture," while fellow godfather Jonathan Harris is still at Redmond, where he serves as "principle experience director," according to their respective LinkedIn profiles. The spokeswoman didn't offer a specific reason for the decision, but in a now-ominous video posted to Microsoft's developer site back in October, Petschnigg acknowledged that the unit's innovative spirit would frequently lead to dead ends. "Often times our work just doesn't go anywhere," he explained, adding that Pioneer would only pursue projects expected to bring in more than $100 million a year. "That's one of the perils of being an entrepreneur." See the full video after the break.