Home opinion-and-analysis Fuzzy Logic Windows 8 president sacked: Sinofsky’s the limit

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Steven Sinofsky on left, Tami Reller middle, Julie Larson-Green top right Steven Sinofsky on left, Tami Reller middle, Julie Larson-Green top right Image Credit: Dischief mischief from images at Microsoft.com Featured
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Microsoft’s President of the Windows division, Steven Sinofsky, the man who led Windows 7 to great success and has just launched Windows 8, is leaving Microsoft, in a move that’s reminiscent of Apple’s recent re-org and removal of Scott Forstall as VP of iOS.

Some will accuse Microsoft of copying Apple yet again, this time following Apple’s removal of Scott Forstall from the VP of iOS role, by the somewhat surprising removal of Windows President Steven Sinofsky from the job.

What many might not have known is that Steven Sinofsky was, like Apple’s Scott Forstall, a polarising figure, tough to work for and get along with, but also a man who got things done and has a great reputation for doing so.

News reports say, however, that Mr Sinofsky had even been recently battling with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer over the future of Windows 8, and despite having once been Bill Gates’ technical assistant, and having long enjoyed the support of Gates and Ballmer, Steven Sinofsky’s reign as Windows chief has ended.

Naturally, commenters in news reports on the sacking have humourously suggested that perhaps Mr Sinofsky and Mr Forstall might now decide to work together in some mind-bending new technological project, but given each apparently has an ego the size of Jupiter going by their recent sackings, it’s probably one dream team partnership that only exists in the fantasy league stakes.

The timing of the move, given the apparent politics behind it, seems clear: Windows 8 has now been launched, the job is done, and while there’s plenty of work to do to continue updating Windows 8, and releasing its successors on vastly faster and yearly time scales than previous Windows releases, right now is a pretty good time to move Mr Sinofsky on and get his successor(s) well and truly ready for the long, hard, new ultra-competitive and very challenged OS slog ahead.

While some in the press and the tech-using public have suggested that Microsoft’s main Steve, Steve Ballmer, should be the one to be sacked from the CEO spot, Mr Ballmer has shown no desire to leave while still delivering sales in the hundreds of millions of copies for Windows, ensuring Office continues as another major cash cow, overseeing Xbox going profitable and motion sensitive through Kinect while helping to usher in various stages of the Windows Phone era.

And, while some thought Steven Sinofsky would be the man to succeed Steve Ballmer as Microsoft CEO, given that’s there no sin in having goals or ambition, that’s clearly not on the agenda, with Microsoft hinting at the reportedly difficult and unco-operative nature of Sinofsky and his Windows division when playing with other executives and Microsoft divisions by stating – much like Apple – that much more collaboration and integration was now on the cards.

Microsoft announced in its press release that Mr Sinofsky is being immediately replaced by existing Windows executive Julie Larson-Green, who “will be promoted to lead all Windows software and hardware engineering”, alongside Windows executive Tami Reller who “retains her roles as chief financial officer and chief marketing officer and will assume responsibility for the business of Windows”, with both executives to “report directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer”, and with neither gaining Mr Sinofsky’s old title of Windows President – or at least, not yet.  

In the same statement, Steve Ballmer is quoted as saying that: “I am grateful for the many years of work that Steven has contributed to the company. The products and services we have delivered to the market in the past few months mark the launch of a new era at Microsoft.

“We’ve built an incredible foundation with new releases of Microsoft Office, Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, Microsoft Surface, Windows Server 2012 and ‘Halo 4,’ and great integration of services such as Bing, Skype and Xbox across all our products. To continue this success it is imperative that we continue to drive alignment across all Microsoft teams, and have more integrated and rapid development cycles for our offerings," concluded Mr Ballmer.

Meanwhile, Steven Sinofsky was quoted saying: “It is impossible to count the blessings I have received over my years at Microsoft. I am humbled by the professionalism and generosity of everyone I have had the good fortune to work with at this awesome company”.

Naturally, we wish Mr Sinofsky the best of success in his future endeavours, and hope to see more innovation from him soon. We were also glad to read Mr Sinofsky's side of the story in his memo to staff before departure as reported by CNET in the US.

However, when it came to Windows 8, Sinofsky clearly found out that, in the end, Sinofsky’s the limit - with Sinofsky now free to pursue new heights to create his own new digital domain, perhaps gaining enough outside CEO experience to perhaps one day return as Microsoft CEO, as has been speculated by some online.

Thus, the Windows King is “dead”, though Mr Sinofsky certainly lives on to fight and lead another day. 

Long live the new Windows Queen, Julie Larson-Green!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

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One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks, including stints as presenter of Ch 10’s Internet Bright Ideas, Ch 7’s Room for Improvement and tech expert on Ch 9’s Today Show, among many other news and current affairs programs.

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