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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.

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