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It only took 20 years but Microsoft has recognized Steven Sinofsky was not a “team player” – Windows President exits Microsoft

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Steven Sinofsky of Microsoft

In a move strikingly similar to Apple’s recent departure of Scott Forstall, Steven Sinofsky, President of Windows and Windows Live Division, is leaving Microsoft reportedly for “his failure to be a team player”.  The “ousting” (the company says the departure was mutual but the abruptness of the announcement might suggests otherwise) comes after the release of Windows 8 and its failure to grab attention (and acceptance) from the market. It was widely known that Sinofsky and Balmer had been on the outs for some time.

Sinofsky has been with Microsoft since 1989 (yeah, it took them a little over 20 years to recognize that he wasn’t a “team player”).  Sinofsky joined Microsoft as a software design engineer, fresh from earning a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  Within three years, he was elevated to technical assistant for Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, a hefty promotion. In 1999 he became the senior vice president of Office during which time he was known for delivering quality Office products on time.  In 2006 he became the senior vice president of the Windows and Windows Live group where he was responsible for restoring Windows from the troubling Vista effort.  The widely accepted Windows 7 product was his first full effort. Taking his place will be Julie Larson-Green, who’ll head up Windows engineering, and Tami Reller, who’ll take care of the business side.  Both will report directly to Steve Balmer.

Steve Balmer sent this email to his employees announcing the departure moments before it was publicly announced:

Over the past few months we have delivered the foundation for a new era for Microsoft. From Office to Bing to Windows Phone and Windows Azure, to Xbox and of course Windows and Surface and everything in between, we’ve unleashed a huge wave of devices and services that people and businesses love. I simply couldn’t be more proud of the effort you have all put in to get us here and to set the foundation for our future. At the Windows launch in New York, at the Windows Phone event in San Francisco, and again at the Build event on Redmond campus, I was struck that while externally many people look at these events as the finish line, they really represent the starting line of a new era.

As we enter this new era, and with the successful launch of Windows 8 and Surface behind us, Steven Sinofsky has decided to leave the company. Steven joined Microsoft in 1989 as a software development engineer and has contributed to the company in many ways from his work as a technical adviser to Bill Gates, to leading the evolution of the Microsoft Office business, to his direction and successful leadership of Windows and Windows Live as well as Surface. I am grateful for the work that Steven has delivered in his time at our company. Effective immediately, Julie Larson-Green will lead Windows engineering. She will be responsible for all product development for Windows and Windows Live, in addition to Surface. Julie has been a stalwart leader of building compelling “experiences” from her time on Internet Explorer, through the evolution of Office and most recently to the re-imagination of Windows. Her unique product and innovation perspective and proven ability to effectively collaborate and drive a cross company agenda will serve us well as she takes on this new leadership role. All of the current Windows engineering teams will report into Julie, and Julie will report to me.

Tami Reller will lead business and marketing strategy for Windows including Surface and partner devices. She will provide broad stewardship to our PC marketing efforts while managing the line business functions for Windows. Her work on Windows since 2007 has been exemplary and her strong talents in working with internal groups and partners will also serve us well. Tami also will report to me.

We are facing a time of great opportunity. What we have accomplished over the past few years is nothing short of amazing, and I know we have more amazing in us. I am excited about our people, I am energized by our ability to change and grow, and I look forward to the success which lies ahead. Thank you for all you do, and please join me in congratulating our new leadership and celebrating all that we have accomplished so far.


And Sinofsky himself sent this email to employees:

With the general availability of Windows 8/RT and Surface, I have decided it is time for me to take a step back from my responsibilities at Microsoft. I’ve always advocated using the break between product cycles as an opportunity to reflect and to look ahead, and that applies to me too.

After more than 23 years working on a wide range of Microsoft products, I have decided to leave the company to seek new opportunities that build on these experiences. My passion for building products is as strong as ever and I look forward focusing my energy and creativity along similar lines.

The Windows team, in partnerships across all of Microsoft and our industry, just completed products and services introducing a new era of Windows computing. It is an incredible experience to be part of a generational change in a unique product like Windows, one accomplished with an undeniable elegance. Building on Windows, Surface excels in design and utility for a new era of PCs. With the Store, Internet Explorer,, SkyDrive and more, each of which lead the way, this experience is connected to amazing cloud services.

It is inspiring to think of these efforts making their way into the hands of Microsoft’s next billion customers. We can reflect on this project as a remarkable achievement for each of us and for the team. Our work is not done, such is the world of technology, and so much more is in store for customers.

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. I am beyond grateful.

I have always promised myself when the right time came for me to change course, I would be brief, unlike one of my infamous short blog posts, and strive to be less memorable than the products and teams with which I have been proudly and humbly associated. The brevity of this announcement is simply a feature.

Some might notice a bit of chatter speculating about this decision or timing. I can assure you that none could be true as this was a personal and private choice that in no way reflects any speculation or theories one might read—about me, opportunity, the company or its leadership.

As I’ve always believed in making space for new leaders as quickly as possible, this announcement is effective immediately and I will assist however needed with the transition.
I am super excited for what the future holds for the team and Microsoft.

With my deepest appreciation,
Steven Sinofsky

Sent from Surface RT

Geek Slop take: We certainly agree that Sinofsky’s aggressive and controlling demeanor contributed to his departure.  After all, he was himself reported to be directly responsible for several upper-level Microsoft managers scrambling out the door in the past.  But what is it with the heads of these corporations?  Microsoft (Balmer) began leaking details on Windows 8 and the geek community responded – “it sucks”.  Then many months later previews of Windows 8 was released and the geek community changed their tune – “it really sucks”.  Then came the betas and final release and the geek community issued their final verdict – “it really, really sucks”.  When the market failed to respond to the “next great release of Windows”, Microsoft acted as if they had been blindside, unaware that the product would be so reviled.  Similar to our feelings about Apple’s leadership, Microsoft has been on a steady decline since Bill Gates left the company.  Gates got it – Balmer doesn’t. And yeah, we don’t believe Sinofsky’s departure after the Windows 8 bomb is coincidence…


Sources: The Verge, CNet, Wall Street Journal, Microsoft, The Register