Steven Sinofsky's abrupt departure from Microsoft came as a shock to some and a relief to others.
While some mourned the loss of a figure dubbed "Microsoft's Steve Jobs" by the press, others claimed it was precisely Sinofsky's Apple-style arrogance that brought him down.
The departure comes just after the apparently successful launch of Windows 8, but scratching below the surface, Sinofsky seemed to leave a trail of enemies.
Indeed, some might say the writing had been on the wall for a while.
On the one hand, Sinofsky was a superb taskmaster who helped Microsoft rescue the franchise with Windows 7 and recover from the Vista debacle. On the other hand, he was regarded as secretive and abrasive both internally and externally, with a penchant for going it alone.
Many felt Sinofsky, a former technical advisor to Bill Gates, leveraged that relationship to operate with impunity in the Windows division and do things his way.
While that approach clearly came with a large measure of success, it also came at a price. Pride does indeed come before a fall.
While Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer worked tirelessly to achieve more collaboration and integration between business units at the firm, Sinofsky closed his off and locked things down. Indeed, collaboration between the Windows team and other divisions is said to be at an all-time low, and a number of smart, creative people like Ray Ozzie, J. Allard and Robbie Bach left the company purportedly because they didn't work well with Sinofsky.
PC OEMs also had a bad relationship with Sinofsky.
The Surface tablet initiative was Sinofsky's personal decision and it's fair to say it severely strained OEM relations.
"Surface may well have been a victim of its own success" said analyst David Kanter of Real World Technologies. Kanter said that while attempting to set the bar for Windows tablets with Surface, the firm may have come up with a product that was impossible for partners to measure up to adequately, causing ill feeling and backlash.
If OEM partners felt it difficult to live up to Microsoft's image of what a tablet should be, those same partners could simply keep churning out Android tablets, isolating Microsoft. "It's a fine line," Kanter said, pointing to Google's model for creating a flagship device with its partners rather than in competition to them.
"It's not obvious Google has the right approach, it's not obvious Microsoft has the right approach.Both are testing ways to drive the ecosystem forward and deliver the right products," he said.
The goal, said Kanter, was to achieve the same product excellence as Apple, but with an ecosystem, rather than in a vertically integrated context.
Microsoft is going in a new direction and putting their own way of doing things in areas that they really should stay out of. Who wants to have a buggy smartphone that needs constant updates? And what company needs a top officer in any area who does not understand about having all parts of the company work together at least a bit. So it is just as well to dump him, he certainly won't starve, or suffer any real hardship, no matter how long he is out of work.
From my perspective, Microsoft took a few things that tablets do well: reading, browsing and light weight gaming, without really understanding why the tablet has those features, and stuffed them into a PC OS. The 1985 era single application up at a time is largely due to the limitations of processing power in tablets. It's not there because people want to exclusively operate that way.
On a PC, it feels awkwardly hacked on without much thought for useability. It smells of a product designed based on the vision of an out of touch person.
If Sinofsky was that out of touch person providing the vision, then Microsoft and most of their customers will be better off with him being someplace else.
Windows RT is a must for Microsoft to not be bound by x86, which is very limited, almost nonexistent, currently in mobile non-PC markets. Windows 8 did not exclude Intel, so I don't know the big deal there.
I agree with you, Bert, and I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft now did a fair bit of bridge building with Intel. I think the Surface Pro, the x86 version, will ultimately end up being a winning device, and I can't help but feel that those who opt for the RT version will be disappointed. The apps they want won't work, and they'll wonder why they didn't just go Android. If you want a Windows tablet, it has to run windows apps properly. The Intel version will. I believe that by ousting Sinofsky, Microsoft will move closer to Intel again.
Great article, getting to the meat of the matter, as it were. Having read this, even more so than in my response to the other Sinfosky article in EE Times, I'm curious about the future direction of Windows 8.
I guess that giving priority to the WinRT version of the Surface tablet was done to please the casual users soonest. But from my point of view, the x86 Surface is the one that would be most interesting and most distinguished from all the other tablets out there.
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