All is not well at Microsoft. Windows boss Steve Sinofsky – who has just presided over Microsoft’s launch of Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and Microsoft’s new tablet Surface – has left Microsoft after 23 years of service to the company.
His departure takes place with immediate effect and has been replaced by Julie Larson-Green, who previously headed-up Windows’ lucrative business side.
The last decade has been a bad one for Microsoft and it’s Windows business. Windows Vista was disaster and along the way the products like Zune and Games for Windows didn’t do as well as Microsoft would have hoped for.
Microsoft hasn’t gone into details about his departure, but it’s not difficult to read between the lines: their Surface tablet has gotten off to the best of starts, Windows 8 has been criticised by independent developers for its move towards a “walled garden approach” and Windows Phone isn’t exactly getting Apple or Google worried.
Steven Sinofsky has been the main-man behind Microsoft’s new emphasis, and with Sinoksky’s guidance Microsoft finally seemed to be turning a corner – even getting certain tech journalist calling big-M “cool” again. But “cool” doesn’t always mean success.
While Microsoft hasn’t discloses sales figures for Surface, their usually bullish CEO, Steve Balmer, said the launch saw “modest” sales – not quite the ringing endorsement you’d expect to hear from the larger-than-life head of Microsoft.
On paper Microsoft’s new direction looks great; an all-encompassing eco-system with a device for everyone member of the family. But this new joined-up approach, so far, hasn’t been the start Microsoft was hoping for. None of this year’s launches have been blockbusters
It seems Soniksky’s approach to corporate culture didn’t endear himself too well with his colleagues. It has even been rumoured that many people at the company had no idea Microsoft was even making a tablet, and his decision to keep certainly people in the dark wasn’t sitting too well with other parts of the business – and it certainly was at odds with Microsoft’s push toward a new joined-up approach to its products and services.
A recent Microsoft statement hinted at such change in the company’s future, it outlined a plan for “less emphasis on the performance of Microsoft’s five individualised business groups” and rather a “deep cross-organisation collaboration”. Steve Sinofsky seems to be the first casualty of this new change.
The company has, and probably will never, properly comment on why Sinofsky left – but they did pay tribute to Sonisky’s work: “I am grateful for the many years of work that Steven has contributed to the company,” Mr Ballmer said in a release.
In a letter to all employees, published by Forbes, Mr Sinofsky set out to quell the rumours about his departure.
“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,” he said.
“It is impossible to count the blessings I have received over my years at Microsoft,” he added.
What’s next for Microsoft?
Mr Sinofksy’s departure, while surprising, is the latest change at the top of some of the world’s biggest technology companies. Last month, Apple announced that Scott Forstall, head of its iOS software, and John Browett, head of retail, would be leaving the firm – after falling sales against Android, the iOS maps debacle and Siri’s lack of impact on the market.
Meanwhile, Yahoo – which has been trying to regain some of its lost market share – also hired a new chief operating officer in October and in July the internet company appointed its third chief executive in a year.
Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer said the changes in leadership at the top of Microsoft were aimed at ensuring the firm continued to be a dominant player in the sector and were not a power struggle between himself and Steve.
He said: “The products and services we have delivered to the market in the past few months mark the launch of a new era at Microsoft,” Mr Ballmer said.
“To continue this success it is imperative that we continue to drive alignment across all Microsoft teams, and have more integrated and rapid development cycles for our offerings,” he added.
Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with research firm Gartner, said that Mr Sinofsky’s were big boots to fill.
“He did a lot more than head up a division, he had a unified vision of Microsoft as an ecosystem, tying together the PC, phone, tablet, Xbox and online services. The ramifications of his departure are yet to be felt.”