Microsoft Shakeup: President Of Windows Is Out

The Microsoft executive in charge of bringing Windows 8 to market is out. Steven Sinofsky leaves Microsoft less than three weeks after a major rewrite of the popular operating system was released. Sinofsky had been seen as likely to succeed CEO Steve Ballmer.

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Let's talk now about the shakeup at the top of Microsoft. Fewer than three weeks after the unveiling of a new, extensively redesigned Windows operating system, the executive responsible for its launch is gone. NPR's Wendy Kaufman has more.

WENDY KAUFMAN, BYLINE: Steven Sinofsky had been at Microsoft for more than two decades and was one of the company's most senior and high-profile executives. So it was a bit of a shock when Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced Sinofsky's immediate departure. No explicit reason was given, though Ballmer described the parting as mutual.

In his note, Sinofsky - seen by some as a possible successor to Ballmer - framed it a bit differently, calling his departure a personal and private choice.

But whatever Ballmer and Sinofsky said, the speculation is running rampant. Was this about product? After all, Windows 8 is not getting spectacular reviews. Or was it about personality, politics or something else? Rob Helm, an analyst at the independent research firm Directions on Microsoft, says think of a scene from an old-time Western, with a character saying...

ROB HELM: This company isn't big enough for the both of us.

KAUFMAN: The characters, of course, are Sinofsky and Ballmer.

HELM: I think the timing suggests that Steve Sinofsky is ready for a bigger job, and there wasn't one for him at Microsoft.

KAUFMAN: Sinofsky, whose bonus last year was more than seven and a half million dollars, was known as a guy who got things done. And as veteran Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley puts it, the company relied on him to deliver the goods.

MARY JO FOLEY: Sinofsky came to the Windows division right after the whole Vista debacle, and a lot of people credit him with having saved Microsoft by coming out with Windows 7, and it was a very successful product. So it was almost like because he had been successful, he was given carte blanche to do what he wanted.

KAUFMAN: And what he seemed to want, says Foley, who edits ZNet's All About Microsoft blog, was to expand his reach into more business units and make whatever management decisions he deemed fit. Those who disagreed with him were often shown the door. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: Foley edits the All About Microsoft blog for ZDNet, not ZNet.]

Often described as exacting, prickly, polarizing and difficult to work with, Sinofsky apparently made a fair number of enemies both inside and outside the company. Analyst Al Hilwa of the research firm IHS says while decisiveness can be an asset in a leader, so is the ability to build consensus and collaborate. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: Al Hilwa is a program director for the research firm IDC.]

AL HILWA: If you look at what Microsoft needs to do in the next couple of releases of its software, they need to create a single ecosystem and platform across PC, tablet, phone and TV. And to do that, they literally have to work across divisions of the company.

KAUFMAN: In his memo announcing Sinofsky's departure, company CEO Steve Ballmer said senior Windows executive Julie Larson-Green would be promoted to head the technical side of Windows. Another senior female executive will assume responsibility for the business side. Ballmer described Larson-Green as someone with a unique product and innovation perspective and a proven ability to collaborate effectively. Again, Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley.

FOLEY: If, in fact, Microsoft is moving through a way of operating that's more collaborative instead of competitive inside the company - which has been how it's operated in the past - Julie Larson-Green would be a very good person to help spearhead that.

KAUFMAN: Larson-Green has already taken on her new position.

Wendy Kaufman, NPR News, Seattle.

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Correction Nov. 14, 2012

We incorrectly refer to the All About Microsoft blog as being a ZNet blog. It is a ZDNet blog. We also incorrectly identify Al Hilwa as an analyst with research firm IHS. Hilwa is a program director for IDC.

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