Windows unit president Steven Sinofsky is leaving the company, effective immediately, AllThingsD has confirmed.
The move comes less than a month after Sinofsky presided over the launch of Windows 8 and Microsoft’s Surface tablet–products seen as key to the future if the PC software pioneer is to retain its position amid a market increasingly dominated by phones and tablets.
Sources have said the move came amid growing tension between Sinofsky and other top executives. Sinofsky, though seen as highly talented, was viewed at the top levels as not the kind of team player that the company was looking for.
Sinofsky has been widely reputed to have an abrasive personality for years, so one really has to wonder at the proximate cause of his departure. Still, team player or not, Sinofsky has to get credit for the Microsoft recovery from the Vista debacle with Windows 7.
The official press release is even more opaque as expected, but here’s the new leadership:
Julie Larson-Green will be promoted to lead all Windows software and hardware engineering. Tami Reller retains her roles as chief financial officer and chief marketing officer and will assume responsibility for the business of Windows. Both executives will report directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
Kevin Johnson left Microsoft a year ago and his old Platforms & Services Division fragmented with three senior vice presidents Steven Sinofsky, Jon DeVaan and Bill Veghte reporting directly to Steve Ballmer for Windows/Windows Live. Today, Microsoft announced that the musical chairs had ended and Steven Sinofsky is now President of Microsoft’s Windows Division:
Microsoft Corp. today promoted Steven Sinofsky to president of the Windows Division. Sinofsky, a 20-year Microsoft veteran, most recently led the Windows and Windows Live Engineering Group, contributing to the Oct. 22 availability of Windows 7.
As president, Sinofsky assumes responsibility for the Windows business including both the engineering and marketing functions for Windows, Windows Live and Internet Explorer.
As for the other two Senior VP who had reported to Ballmer:
Tami Reller, currently chief financial officer (CFO) for the Windows Division, will take on the additional responsibility for marketing. Bill Veghte will be moving to a new leadership role in the company to be announced later this year. The transition between Reller and Veghte is timed to take place in late July when Windows 7 reaches the release to manufacturing (RTM) milestone. … She will report to Sinofsky and will retain her responsibilities as CFO.
Jon DeVaan will continue in his role as senior vice president, reporting to Sinofsky. DeVaan managed the engineering team responsible for creating the core components of both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.
The software maker included Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Mail, and Windows Movie Maker as part of Vista, but later chose to offer separate downloadable Windows Live programs that essentially replaced those components with versions that could connect to online services from Microsoft and others.
In a follow-up interview on Monday, Windows Vista general manager Brian Hall said Microsoft made the decision to remove the tools from Windows for several reasons, including a desire to issue new operating system releases more quickly than it has in the past. The move also removes the confusion of offering and supporting two different programs that perform essentially similar functions.
"It makes it much cleaner," Hall said.
Two different applications for the same purpose is certainly an unneeded luxury and one can sympathize with the difficulty in getting multiple applications with different update frequencies to a coordinated Windows 7 launch date, but I can’t help but think that this shifts the pain to the end user. The consumer with a shiny new PC already has a lot of work to do to transfer files and applications to the new system and this just adds to the burden unless it is completely automatic.
Microsoft is coy about how streamlined the acquisition process for these applications will be, but the above news report from Ina Fried suggest that Microsoft fears antitrust scrutiny of making the process too automatic and suggests that they will instead work with partners "to enable really great experiences." I assume that partners means OEMs where, frankly, great experiences are usually in short supply.
Finally, while we are talking Windows 7, Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference 2008 is coming up in late October and Microsoft’s Denise Begley reminds us that there will be plenty of Windows 7 information including a Windows 7 keynote by head Windows honcho Steven Sinofsky. A list of all of the PDC08 sessions shows 22 of them on Windows 7.
Up until today Kevin Johnson was the president of Microsoft’s Platforms & Services Division (PSD) which develops Windows and Microsoft’s online properties including Windows Live and MSN. Now Kevin Johnson is out and PSD has been split into two pieces reporting directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer:
Microsoft Corp. today announced that the Platforms & Services Division (PSD) will be split into two groups: Windows/Windows Live and Online Services, with both groups reporting directly to CEO Steve Ballmer. Microsoft also announced that PSD President Kevin Johnson will be leaving the company. Johnson will work to ensure a smooth transition.
Effective immediately, senior vice presidents Steven Sinofsky, Jon DeVaan and Bill Veghte will report directly to Ballmer to lead Windows/Windows Live.
In the Online Services Business, Microsoft will create a new senior lead position and will conduct a search that will span internal and external candidates. In the meantime, Senior Vice President Satya Nadella will continue to lead Microsoft’s search, MSN and ad platform engineering efforts.
In addition, Senior Vice President Brian McAndrews will continue to lead the Advertiser & Publisher Solutions Group (APS).
So was Johnson pushed or did he jump? The rumor is that Johnson is now going to run Juniper Networks, which while nice enough, doesn’t seem like a sufficient opportunity to justify a voluntary departure so the smart money is on pushed.
One problem could have been Vista’s lackluster reputation, but Microsoft is still printing money with Windows so a more likely cause is the continuing disappointment from Microsoft’s online efforts. I’m sure it also didn’t help that Johnson was the point man on Microsoft’s attempt to buy Yahoo (or pieces thereof) which appears to have finally come to naught.
As for what it all means, I see no reason to expect significant changes in either products or financial performance – it was merely a rearrangement of the deck chairs which won’t be complete until new executives heading the two groups are named (assuming that Steve Ballmer doesn’t really want to run Windows/Windows Live himself). Any expectations of radical alterations are clearly premature.