Speculation about how and why Steven Sinofsky’s sudden departure from Microsoft currently dominates the technology news.
Why now? Experienced Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley agrees and says that the reasons have to do with politics and not with products:
“Sinofsky ‘Condition,’ inside and outside, the company is known as someone who gets things done, on his way. There appeared regularly on rumors that he angled to get more departments to himself pulling, and until recently it seemed that the management, including Ballmer, capitulated. Recently, however, something seems to have changed. Ballmer’s message to the Microsoft troops, on the departure of Sinofsky, emphasized the ability of his successor Green Larson to efficiently collaborate with other departments and cross-company agenda to pursue.”
Sinofsky had worked at Microsoft since 1989, starting as one of the advisers of Bill Gates. He had a huge impact on the development of Windows system over the years.
Windows: Great Success Under Sinofsky
Sinofsky, who spent 23 years at Microsoft and also long worked on the Office software, took over the leadership of the Windows area in 2006, just before Windows Vista would come on the market. After the debacle of Windows Vista, Windows 7 was launched on time, and all the bad aspects of Windows Vista had been resolved, thanks to Sinofsky’s ability to put things in order.
The 47-year-old Sinofsky was the chief architect of the new version of Microsoft’s most important product, Windows 8, and had carried out his vision for a radical renewal. The great blog posts by Sinofsky and his team during the development of Windows 7 and Windows 8 were an indication of how exactly Microsoft’s culture had changed. The way things are done in Stevens organizations is incredibly straightforward. You think about what you want to build and write it down so that the whole team has a shared vision of what they want to build — and then you build it.
As president of Microsoft’s Windows Division, Sinofsky had great respect procured by ensuring the timely publication of mature products. He squared the management structures of the large division and managed to develop both Windows 7 and Windows 8 in time, despite the tight deadlines.
Windows – Ahead
Aside from a solid portfolio of projects delivered on time, Sinofsky had a reputation as brilliant but difficult in collaboration. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer looked especially at the problem of the lack of cooperation Sinofsky had with managers of other areas.
The Redmond company’s culture is to work into different engineering silos devoted to each of Microsoft’s key franchises: Windows, the Office suite of software, online services, corporate servers and the Xbox 360 gaming console. Now, the need of the hour is to integrate all the product operations more closely together to create technology with which people want to work, play and communicate.
“Sinofsky is an empire builder who is not going to look kindly at someone coming in and telling him he has got to start sharing,” said long-time technology analyst Rob Enderle. “But Ballmer needs everyone to do the Kumbaya thing and come together. They were likely increasingly bumping heads in terms of the future of the company.”
Microsoft’s rivals Apple and Google have been pursuing all their products more closely together so the technology is easily accessible, giving them a head start in a battle that’s immersing technology.
As part of Ballmer’s strategy, Microsoft is expanding and integrating software into hardware, more likely what Apple does. Ballmer plans a reorganization to ease this new approach to software development with new teams, new responsibilities, and, perhaps, even the beginning of the end of the silo’d mentality.
In the long run, Microsoft would switch Windows over to a more sustained development model. Microsoft missed the rise of smartphones and tablets, and now Sinofsky’s Windows 8 and Surface are unquestionably a wildly ambitious attempt to catapult Microsoft’s most important product into the future.