Live Long and Prosper SteveSi

I was only momentarily shocked when I heard last night that Steven Sinofsky was leaving Microsoft.  It was momentary because a friend had told me months ago that Steven would be gone soon after Windows 8 launched.  The claim was that he had alienated most of Microsoft’s senior leadership, if not the bulk of the executive staff.  This was in the middle of all the outsider talk that Steven was in line to replace Steve Ballmer as Microsoft CEO.  While I never thought that likely, I found the notion that Steven would be forced out just as improbable.  And I take at face value Steven’s own statement that this was completely his decision.  Still, I don’t think this was simply a case of burnout, boredom, or desire to find a CEO job (as previous Windows President Kevin Johnson had done).

Steven had apparently lost recent battles to bring both Windows Phone and the Developer Division under his control.    I suspect that he saw those loses both as a roadblock to where he wanted to take Windows over the next few years, and a clear indication that his political power within Microsoft had peaked.  At the very point where he should have been able to ask for, and receive, almost anything as reward for his proven success he got slapped down.  And so he chose to leave.

It’s pretty clear from what was said, and not said, in the Steve and Steven emails that this wasn’t some well planned corporate transition.  It sounded abrupt, like the two of them met earlier in the day with Steven announcing his departure.  A friend with experience serving on public company Board of Directors was irate over how this was handled, feeling like modern corporate governance practices demanded a more planful transition.  I agree, and it is just one more indication that this move was probably an outgrowth of conflict.

Is this good or bad for Microsoft?  Probably both.  Microsoft has lost one of its few executives with a proven ability to ship major products and ship them on time.   On the other hand, it is also losing an executive who was tearing the company apart from the inside.  I have no doubt that a key reason Steven was unable to gain control of Windows Phone and the Developer Division is that most of the top 2-3 levels of leadership in those organizations would have quit.   So would senior leaders in other organizations, such as those with their own dependencies on DevDiv, as they realized their needs weren’t going to be met in the future.  It was becoming Steven against the rest of the company leadership, and no company can survive that situation for long.

What does this mean for Microsoft?  Does it mean a reversal of the cultural changes that have been occurring as Steven’s influence grew?  Does it mean that groups with dependencies on Windows, like the Windows Server team, will now find a better partner in Julie Larson-Green than they had with Steven?  Does it mean that Windows will slip back into bad habits?  I’ll comment more about these topics in the future.

I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of Steven Sinofsky, and he said as much in his farewell email.   It will be interesting to see what he does next, and if he can duplicate his Microsoft successes in another environment.

Steven, Live Long and Prosper.

 

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107 Responses to Live Long and Prosper SteveSi

  1. Sam says:

    As a well-wisher of Microsoft, I can’t express in words how disappointed I am to see Steven Sinofsky leave. In my opinion, this could not have come at a worse time. People say Sinofsky doesn’t matter right now because Windows 8 has already shipped. But the most important part of Windows 8 is still far from complete — third-party apps in the Windows Store. Steven Sinofsky was very popular among a new breed of Windows and Windows Phone developers. They will be confused after this move. Doubts will creep in their minds regarding whether Microsoft are truly committed to this new model of apps. What if someone else takes over Windows, and announces a new dev platform? This will hurt the growth of Windows Store badly. And if Windows Store doesn’t grow, Windows 8 is doomed.

    Microsoft CANNOT afford to let Windows 8 fail. If Windows 8 fails, Windows Phone 8 will also fail. And together they will define the end of Microosft in the consumer market. And, I believe that’s exactly what a lot of senior Microsoft executives want. They are too happy to use their iPads and iPhones. They don’t WANT Microsoft to compete with Apple. If you doubt me, just visit the MiniMSFT blog. These people don’t give a damn if Microsoft survives or not. These people will now take over from Sinofsky, and ruin all the good work Sinofsky has done in the last few years.

    10 years from now, when people will try to pin down the moment Microsoft’s destruction began, they’ll point to 12th November, 2012. It’s a black day in the world of technology.

  2. Bob - former DECie says:

    I’ve always found it interesting to watch where ScottGu goes within Microsoft. From a customer/developer perspective, he seems to be able solve problems without causing all the uproar that SteveSi did. No, I’m not suggesting that ScottGu be the next Windows President; just that Microsoft still has some people who can solve problems without resorting to a scorched earth policy.

    • In many ways, managing Windows is a final act for many MS executives. Either they leave because the release was clunky or they expend all their political capital keeping things out of Windows. I believe this is what the reference to “collaboration” meant.

      We know this to be true – Windows 7 ran faster than Windows Vista, and Windows 8 got even better, and achieved this on constrained ARM hardware. Microsoft knows how to ship operating systems. From an engineering standpoint, as Herb Sutter said – it is C++.

      As much as Sinofsky may be disliked for doing this, I think he has made enough compromises that we are now hearing of lawsuits over how much storage Surface actually provides.

      I read in an article that a person who goes through the Great Depression have their outlook permanently changed. Missing a Windows release similarly affects any engineers view. It will take a decade for the lessons of the Longhorn reboot to be forgotten, and while I certainly hope Larson Green effectively juggles the competing demands that Microsoft and its customer places on Windows, the law of physics dictates that this is not going to be easy.

      ScottGU is likeable. But I would use a Mac if Windows ran like Visual Studio.

      There’s still hope for Microsoft. Their bench is deep. I hope Larson Green will persuade Russinovich to keep an eye on perf and resources. I also hope they retain the lessons from making apps run on 256MB Nokia phones and sandbox the partner/other divisions apps accordingly. Windows the air that we collectively breathe. While everyone jostles for position on the homepage of the world’s most important operating system, I hope Larson Green has the sense and wherewithal not to let this collaboration theme go too far.

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  4. Paul says:

    I realize the Windows phone guys have done some great work. There are even some things in WP that I’m surprised and disappointed didn’t make it into W8. But they’ve also failed to get any traction in the market. So was the risk of losing the top people there really that profound? I don’t agree with everything Sinofsky has done product-wise and can’t speak to what’s it’s like colloborating with him, but he’s the one MS executive who projected a strong vision. He also wasn’t afraid to engage directly, including with detractors. I respected that. It showed that he didn’t bury his head in the sand, unlike so many other MS executives, and also that he still had pride and confidence. This is a significant loss in my estimation. As one person said, it’s like changing quarterbacks during the Super Bowl.

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  7. Zack says:

    At least the trains ran on time and nobody messed with his people. This is far more than you can say for DevDiv right now.

    And, hell, WinPhone has 1 – 2% smartphone market share? Why not let him have it? it’s not like mobile was doing anything useful with it anyway. To me, it has always begged the question – why make the desktop and tablet look like the phone when customers are pretty ambivalent about the phone to begin with?

  8. Ex-SQL_Server-girl says:

    I completely agree with Bob’s take that ScottGu would be interesting leadership choice. I’m sceptical of Julie’s success in negotiating within the company and aligning product lines – maybe forthcoming “cloud release model” with shorter release cycles and possibly moving towards full subscription model for Windows would be her chance to succeed.
    As for the Sam’s concerns, I’m confident there will not be any new dev platform on Windows any time soon. .NET was THE platform, but Windows org just didn’t push it and it kid of stagnated and never became dominant on Windows. With win8, we have unified platform for at least a decade. In about 5-6 years, legacy apps will just fade away and Metro apps will be dominant (even without touch stuff – the self-contained app model is so much better than DLL/registry hell we have now). And about a decade from now we’ll have a new Windows Core, based on Singularity/Midori which will introduce a new app model which will be even better suited for multicores. Hopefully, Metro apps could be run on the new core natively.
    BTW, MiniMSFT is full of bitter ex-softies which still can’t make up their mind if they should have stayed with the corp, so it’s not exactly representative. I believe that even without SteveSi, MSFT will be just fine. Windows is finally in good shape: after Vista, COSD/WEX was a complete mess, with Win7 engineering org was revamped and we got solid foundation for Win8. Hopefully, new Win leadership will share more with the rest of the corp and we’ll get better products which share more common DNA. Honestly, I’m really disappointed that there is no Metro Office, not in the sense that Office should be touch-optimized (that would be a toy), but more along the lines of Win8 integration. I’d like to see Outlook live tile, sharing stuff directly to SharePoint, running a PowerPoint presentation over on TV via Xbox or any DLNA device. I agree with Hal’s earlier point about Office being MSFT’s most profitable business which evolves with business customer requirements, but I still think even business people will be happy with small steps towards integration with Win8.

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  10. There can never be a satisfying way for the departments to collaborate together. Each have their own velocity and value offering, and Windows just happens to be up the maturity chain where all good products should eventually end up.

    Windows, to me, represents software that Microsoft will support. I haven’t used Groove or Live Folders, but I will use SkyDrive. Simply because I believe if it is on Windows, it is going to have longetivity. This is not always true. The dashboard widgets on Vista was ditched, but then they were such memory hogs that Mark Russinovich had a writeup on it.

    On the other end of the spectrum, Bing needs to be perpetually in beta in order to match Google’s pace. Even DevDiv isn’t as reliable or trustworthy as a brand as Windows. The Visual Studio product is weighed down by features that even modern machines struggle to complete simple tasks. Sinofsky’s (and Microsoft’s) cachet would have grown and endured if he were known as a fixer and not given the opportunity to settle down in a single feifdom.

  11. dewey2000 says:

    @Sam – His departure, while horribly handled, can only be a good thing. This silly cone of silence, forcing customers to GUESS at Microsofts roadmaps, and newly anti-Microsoft closed policies were causing more harm than good.

    Who knows if Microsoft will reverse any of these anti-developer/customer trends, but if can’t get any worse.

    People say that Steven was a very bright man, but I have to wonder. He’s the same person that attacked Intel when they said that old windows apps wouldn’t run on ARM! I was in shock that he said that, but figured that MS has some possible magical solution.

    As it turned out, the laws of physics still hold, and Steven was clearly either lying or just plain cluless, either of which are grossly disturbing!

    I’m glad he’s gone, however, I really wish there could have been a transition, but when you live by the gun, you tend to die the same way.

    Dictators rarely fare well in transition!

    • Peter Bright says:

      I don’t believe he said anything of the sort. Do you have a citation?

      Microsoft was always very clear that ARM Windows wouldn’t be x86 compatible. Not to mention the fact that it’s f—ing obvious.

      • Peter G. says:

        Then let’s DEFINITELY not mention the fact that Windows NT on MIPS, Alpha, PowerPC, and SPARC could run x86 apps. That would be a very inconvenient truth.

        • Tom says:

          It would be inconvenient if it were true. But it isn’t.

          Only Alpha shipped with a decent binary translation layer for NT, namely, FX!32. And that was done by DEC, not by Microsoft. The other chip vendors didn’t put in the effort, and consequently, none of them got anywhere near the toehold that Alpha had.

          Even then, there was still a substantial performance hit. If you were moving up from a 486, the Alpha was certainly a step forward. Compared to the Pentium, the benefits were marginal. And when the Pentium Pro came out, there was no longer much reason to run Alpha.

          Microsoft does have an optimized x86-on-PowerPC binary translation layer that came with the Connectix acquisition. This is how the Xbox 360 was able to run certain games designed for the original Xbox. But they didn’t have it in the early days of NT. Connectix itself marketed the technology for running x86 Windows on PowerPC Macs — not for running x86 Win32 applications on PowerPC NT.

    • Ridi Culos says:

      Have you been living under a stone? They mentioned very early that WoA would not run x86 applications. Don’t blame them.

    • Mantikos says:

      I think you are confusing the Intel CEO saying Win 8 is half baked with x86 on ARM in which case get off this blog you don’t belong here

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  13. Hal. Hey there, I find myself feeling to offer some insight — relative to what you say above, I never initiated any discussions to bring together the organizations/products you describe and no one ever approached me to manage them as part of Windows 7 or 8. Basic organization theory as described by @teyc would support the current state as a practical working model.

    If we had worked together you would know that historically, very few things moved into teams I managed as (you’ve no doubt seen in internal blogs) and when they did I usually pushed back hard looking for a cross-group way to achieve the goal (in other words, decide open issues rather than force an org change to subsequently decide something). it is far better to collaborate with the org in place and avoid the disruption unless it is on a product cycle boundary and far better to plan and execute together than just organize together.

    dewey2000 — We never said apps would run. You can see Ina Fried’s coverage from the CES 2011 presentation where we talked about Intel on ARM (she asked that during Q&A). We were very clear that very first time and even that clarity caused a bit of a stir as people thought apps should/would run at the time of the demo. Maybe there was some subsequent story that possibly jumbled that?

    • halberenson says:

      Steven, thanks for the first hand insight. I am obviously going on what others in Microsoft have told me. And seriously, good luck with whatever you do next!

    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Steven,

      I was a dev IC during Win8. I ended up leaving because I thought leadership and product decisions were so screwed up. Yes it’s true that emulating Intel binaries was scoped out early. I thought that was crazy at the time, when you look at how well that kind of thing has gone in certain other instances (chiefly Apple, which pulled off M68K on PPC in the ’90s, and PPC on Intel in the ’00s). But the other thing 8 did not do is allow third parties to port Win32 apps. That was also kind of crazy. The reviews of Surface RT would probably be a lot less mixed if you could target Win32 on ARM. You’d have lots of Windows enthusiasts porting quality apps to desktop mode in good faith, starting with the good open source stuff that is out there. Instead, we told those critcally important users and developers “no”. It always seemed really dumb to me, especially given how non-battle-tested the new RT APIs were. I’d buy a Surface RT if it could run some of that legacy, but I don’t think I can justify getting it over iPad in its current state, or even with the RT app ecosystem we’re likely to see in a year or two (vide: Windows Phone).

    • Laela Miles says:

      Steve Jobs left Apple when (1) he was forced out or (2) he pretty much had both feet in the grave. You’ve ruled out both in your case.

      Windows and Surface are still in a half-baked state, playing catch up to Apple/Google, just approaching the point of greatness but not there yet. This is not a bad thing and those are not criticisms, just observations. This is expected, understandable, and by design. However, you did not see the story through and that pains me.

      All the endless compromises (forgive the word) and early decisions you made about Windows and Surface… you’re not there to tell the story, you’re not there to defend them, and you’re not there to evolve them. You’re just not done with this job. You’re not done working for the success of the product and seeing it to the end.

      Beyond playing catch up with Windows and Surface, you did not achieve the Next Big Thing. You just set a course, a great course it is, and left the wheel. I will forever be sad about this.

      However, you are human and you are allowed to live your life the way you want. Indeed, you must. There is more to life, right? Have fun on your journeys to whichever side of the world you are going next. I wish you well, happiness, health and joy for the rest of your life!

    • As far as I get to know, any time any where, Mr. Steven Si is sincere about Windows Phone.
      He refused the comment to Windows Phone and he concentrated on improving Windows.
      Although Steven of this story is all. He takes charge of, it has denied taking and unifying a heterogeneous project.
      It wishes for future Steven’s future to be bright.

  14. Anand says:

    Hal,
    I am reading your articles regularly and your detailed insight really good. Now what will happen to Windows going forward? Will WinRT / Surface RT are all going to be there or not. Please write an article about that. Being well-wisher for MS, and being an early adopter for their product (Win Phone 7) and now surface RT,i am really concerned. Should I return my Surface RT and wait? I was really disappointed when they announced that Lumia 900 wont get upgrade and I am stuck with that for another year and I cannot afford to buy new device every year. Please advice.

  15. petilon says:

    Let’s face it, Windows 8 is Vista 2.0. Most of the reviews are negative. Sinofsky should be held responsible. He certainly knows how to deliver products on time, but he doesn’t know how to create products consumers desire.

    Sadly I don’t expect things to change until Julie and Jensen are also replaced.

    • Lemony Paris says:

      Most of the Windows 8 reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Only if you only take crApple fanbois’ words you’d think otherwise. But then you’d also think OS X would have more than 6% market share while Windows less than 90%.

      • kmccaughey says:

        Not this one, which I believe has it just right: http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/windows-8-review/

        As a programmer I am left stunned at what MS has done. Someone (Mr Balmer?) has taken them in the wrong direction to chase a commodity vs niche market, which they don’t fit into. And to cap it all they are alienating their main user base and forcing us to look for another OS. I found Win 8 unusable, as did any colleague I have talked to. I dread to think what cubicle-guy will do when they see it – probably hang themselves by their tie at the prospect of the daily insanity.

        • Ken Beckett says:

          Agreed – several HUGE and painfully obvious missteps have been made, and it seems that the tremendous amount of complaints regarding Win8, VS2012, and effective pushing-aside of C# and .NET have all been largely ignored. Keeping your existing user and especially developer bases happy is so critical, but we have been getting nothing but punishment for our loyalty to the company. I used to look forward to a new Windows OSes and Visual Studio releases, but I have zero desire to install either one of them.

          After more than a decade of sticking with Windows and C#.NET while most other developers I know have moved to Java and work at companies such as Google and
          Oracle, this insane behavior by MS over the last couple of years is the final straw – I’m dusting off my old Java books and I’m entertaining offers from Java dev shops. I think MS is undergoing an inevitable decline due to old age, but they’re sure picking up a lot of speed on the down-slope lately! I’m really going to miss the elegant and powerful C# language, but I won’t miss any of the rest of it.

          The tragic thing about all this is how EASY it would have been to handle all of these things so much better. How about an easy toggle to the Win7 view at least on desktops? (which rarely have touch screens) How about backpedaling furiously when thousands of devs complained about VS2012? (the whole point of that product is making developers happy!) How about being careful not to dismiss C# and .NET while breathing new life into C++? (maybe all-C++ and zero-C# sessions at the premier annual dev conference wasn’t such a great idea??)

          Sorry, MS, but I’ve had one too many slaps in the face to continue this relationship…

          • Charles says:

            “How about being careful not to dismiss C# and .NET while breathing new life into C++? (maybe all-C++ and zero-C# sessions at the premier annual dev conference wasn’t such a great idea??)’

            This is patently false. For one thing, C# and VB.NET are first class citizens on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. C++, on the other hand, just got invited to the WP8 party, and in order to make programming at the WinRT ABI palatable to modern C++ developers with no COM experience (and hopefully they won’t ever need to gain this experience…), the language (C++ is an ISO language) was _extended_ to make it easier to program COM (WinRT is COM evolved) on Windows 8. Windows Azure has 0 Microsoft-supplied support for C++ at the Azure API layer (programming blob storage, table storage, etc., etc.,…) (this is what project Casablanca is supposed to address – you also learned this at BUILD 2012)). There’s still a lot of work to do at Microsoft to bring C++ to parity with the other supported tools for Microsoft’s programmable platforms. Anyway, you need a history lesson…

            C# and .NET have been the favorite children of DEVDIV and Microsoft for 10+ years. C++ developers were left stranded, unloved, malnourished, and ignored during this time. The C++ Renaissance at Microsoft is all about parity. Gone are the days of .NET Everywhere for Everything (this actually died with Longhorn). Today, we have JavaScript, C#/VB.NET, and C++ all living on the same floor, with access to the same services (well, not on Azure yet…), the same levels of innovation and engineering investment (though C++ still trails here for some reason, but the VC++ team is cranking and on the road to catching up with the rest of the industry re C++11 conformance). As an insider (I work here and I also helped push .NET really hard back in the day, but I never lost my native roots…), I can freely say this -> the .NET teams got cocky and the C++ Renaissance woke them up from their artificially induced sense of supremacy. The thing is, *today*, as a consequence of the C++ Renaissance, investments in .NET won’t be at the detriment or expense of other languages and runtimes at Microsoft… Those days are over. Period.

            I love that .NET is ONE of the excellent tools to use to build applications and services on our platforms, not THE tool of choice at Microsoft. Parity is good for everybody: developers, users, and the tools themselves. Not only is .NET alive and well, it’s getting better and better as a consequence of not living alone in the platform tools penthouse. (I can’t elaborate on this, but I shouldn’t have to – the point should be clear).

            Windows 8 deserves a ton of credit for building a truly modern development platform that supports three *very* different programming models – and all are first class, first rate, and excellent choices. This is an act of platform unification, not division. Thanks for this, Steven.

            Charles

            Charles

    • Jorgie says:

      That’s BS. Vista shipped without decent hardware/driver support and a lot of other issues. Windows 8 has tons of driver support and I have yet to put it on a system and not have it run as well or better than Windows 7. I work for a University and have personally put it on more than 15 physical systems maybe twice that many VMs. So far everyone that is using it loves it. The biggest complaint is that they miss the start button and that fades in the first week.

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  23. Joe Wood says:

    I think Steve will be missed. The changes in Windows and previously in Office were necessary and really represent the transition of Microsoft from a Software company to a Services (and devices) company.

    Saying that, the lack of cross departmental strategy has been evident. Switching strategy with developers – from WPF, to Silverlight, to WinRT. This is not something that you can keep doing and ask your ISVs to keep throwing money at the next new shiney object. A transitional strategy would have been better – something like Silverlight RT. This could have offered a subset of WinRT but target the browser and run on Windows 7.

    Likewise, the Windows Phone story is also fragmented. Why doesn’t Windows 8 run WP7 apps? Why isn’t there a Universal App story, a single app store? XNA support in WinRT?

    This more uniform strategy is so nearly there. Maybe if Steve was running these other departments we would be in a position now – I guess we’ll never know.

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  46. LordMorien says:

    Having worked at the Las Colinas site several times it is apparent that this is not the same company it was in the past. The feeling of Camelot is over! I don’t know what has happened to MSFT but I am truly concerned.

    The corporate vision seems cloudy and somewhat disconnected. With the head of Windows leaving it makes me uneasy for the future of what I would call “Unified Windows”. Sounds like he had a plan and a good one. It makes total sense to bring all of Windows under his control to carry out such a plan to make that a realization.

    In my humble opinion this company has not been the same since Balmer has taken over!

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  64. S says:

    I’m a 20 year vet. I worked near Steven for 6. I can attest that he will be sorely missed. He figured out how to get all the big egos to work on one unified vision, versus what many “nice” execs did, which is to feed those egos by letting them work on sideshows that then confused Microsoft’s overall strategy, confused customers, and confused developers, and undermined our mainline efforts. Steven is the strongest, most engaged exec I have ever seen at Microsoft.

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  76. Pingback: Sinofsky speaks, denies he tried to take over Windows Phone division at Microsoft | Tech...Meets...Blog

  77. Pingback: SINOFSKY FIRES BACK: I Wasn’t A Power-Grabbing Jerk (MSFT) | Up to the hour news

  78. Pingback: Steven Sinofsky (non) spiega il suo abbandono di Microsoft | Softwareone.it

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  81. Pingback: NUTesla | The Informant » Sinofsky nega: non voleva il controllo di Windows Phone

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  85. Pingback: Sinofsky: I never tried to take over Windows Phone division | My Blog

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