Steven Sinofsky

Microsoft Windows president Steven Sinofsky’s surprise departure from the company yesterday is generating all sorts of speculation, including a theory that he left after making an unsuccessful case to be designated Steve Ballmer’s successor as Microsoft’s chief executive.

Sinofsky is a polarizing figure, with fans and critics, and the reaction to his departure is having a similar effect.

Wrote longtime analyst Rick Sherlund in a note to clients this morning: “We hold Sinofsky in high regard as a technical visionary and his ability to deliver complex products on a timely basis. Sinofsky had previously driven successful Office releases, and the turn-around of Windows 7 after Vista, and we are of the view that the move is a loss to Microsoft.”

As I noted this morning, I appreciated some of Sinofsky’s traits, at least as viewed from the outside, and in that way I’m sorry to see him go.

Counters longtime Microsoft beat reporter Mary Jo Foley: “I cannot pretend I am sad about the passing of the torch. I have been persona non grata with the Windows division for the entire time that Sinofsky ran it. Many long-time Microsoft employees, managers and testers have expressed similar sentiments, mostly in private. Here’s hoping to better days, in terms of how the Windows client team interacts with all of its constituents: Its customers, partners and us Microsoft watchers.”

On Wall Street today, Microsoft shares are trading down 3 percent, just above $27, following the news.

Your take? Vote in our poll below.


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  • Guest

    Apparently MS sold only ~150,000 Surface tablets so far (online & stores combined), which would explain Sinofsky’s surprising fate. Any more info on this anyone?

    • Guest

      Missing a couple of zeroes there. Try 15,000,000. (Source: Wikipedia)

      • Guest

        I don’t see it on wikipedia.

      • Chris Lynch

        There’s no data in Wikipedia on sales right now.

        • Guest

          Wait a minute, let me go make it up….I mean document it in the article.

    • guest

      Apparently you’re still single and living in your mother’s basement. Any more info on this anyone?

    • Joe d’Coder

      Sorry, you are way off base here. If it was because of disappointing sales, they would have announced him leaving in 3 months or some such. No, there was clearly a very rancorous parting of the ways. “Effective immediately” is the equivalent of the the finger – either from MS (i.e. fired with malice) or Sinofsky (take this job and shove it, Steve).

  • guest

    There’s no polarization in the market’s reaction. It’s unambiguously negative; a large drop and high volume. And it looks like the drop is only getting started.

    Sherlund has it right, whereas MJF seems to be thinking more about how this affects her, not the company.

  • Bill

    His teams developed quality products and shipped them on time, and most of the time people even bought those products–granted in many cases they had to buy them but still. How many Microsoft execs can say that?

    • Vincent Mikes

      Not to mention he righted the Windows Vista ship. But well, looks like for one to secure one’s job, you need friends.

      • guest

        He also drove the creation of SharePoint, one of the only highly profitable net new products from MS under Ballmer’s tenure as CEO. And he’s the person that warned Billg about the rising importance of the internet, which led to the latter’s famous “Tidal Wave” memo. The guy wasn’t perfect, but he was the best they had. The wrong Steve left.

  • uberlaff

    Having not actually been at Microsoft during his tenure, I can’t decide if this is good or bad. From the outside, he was executing perfectly on everything he touched but how much of the problems Microsoft is experiencing today was the result of his culture.

  • Smothers

    Question is does he go to CA, Asia, or do the crazy thing and get some things going here? Personally I’m pulling for for crazy. Crazy crazy crazy.

  • guest

    Sinofsky was without doubt the most successful senior MS executive. From warning Gates about the internet threat, which allowed the entire company to pivot and avoid disaster in the 90’s, to numerous successful Office releases, SharePoint, rescuing the Windows division with W7, and giving MS at least a shot at staying relevant in the future with W8 (and more important the longer term vision behind it). If Sinofsky had been put in charge of Windows sooner, instead of having to waste a bunch of time cleaning up the Vista mess, MS would almost certainly have been better prepared for the rise of tablets. His detractors can’t rebut any of that.

    So this comes down to a fundamental question of whether you think MS has all the pieces to legitimately compete against the ecosystems of Apple. Google, and Amazon. If you do, you can view Sinofsky unwillingness to have his group’s effort made dependent on others (something that was critical to allowing Windows to ship on time) as a reason for letting him leave. But in my opinion, and I think it’s the mainstream view, MS doesn’t have that. They made too many wrong choices, too many mistakes, and in many cases ended up being too late when they finally started to get their act together. Responsibility for that lies with Ballmer, who should have been fired long ago, and MS’s board, which didn’t do so and still refuses to despite now abundant evidence that it’s warranted.

    The logical move at this point would have been to consolidate Windows/WRT/WP, MBD, and Servers under one company, recognizing that everything else has pretty much been a failure. With demonstrated success in two of the three, Sinofsky was the only obvious candidate for CEO of this entity. Concede that Online has been an utter failure and has no chance against Google. Work a deal with Yahoo to make it a joint venture with its own management team. And finally spin off Xbox into its own company. While it has had more market success than Online, the gains made after more than a decade of effort are unlikely to hold off Google and Apple for long. Console gaming is already in steep decline. Any thought that Xbox was going to “own the living room” and therefore the home is now entirely suspect. And like Online, it also has a negative ROI over its lifetime.

    Sinofsky was smart enough to see all that and be realistic about what MS’s remaining options are. Ballmer is still deluded into thinking MS can beat Apple at Apple’s game, even though chasing their tail has been a demonstrably failed strategy for more than a decade now. And Gates has pretty much checked out, except to keep Ballmer in power and allow him to continue destroying MS’s future, as he did with this stupid move.

    • One possible future

      This is very well thought-out and said. And I agree.

      Sadly, it reminds me a bit of Kyle Reese in Terminator: you’ve come back from the horrible future and outlined clearly where it all went wrong.

  • Clive Boulton

    Live tonight ($9.95) – Steve Ballmer w/ LinkedIn’s CEO at the @ChurchillClub

  • JimmyFal

    I think more than anything, it was really, really, really bad timing.

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