Sinofsky out, Larson-Green in at Microsoft’s Windows division

REDMOND, Wash. — Nov. 12, 2012

Microsoft Corp. today announced that Windows and Windows Live President Steven Sinofsky will be leaving the company and that 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.

These changes are effective immediately.

For what it’s worth, I think this was a mutual decision, one that had been in the works for a while. And I’m sure there were a few shouting matches along the way. You don’t get to be a senior executive at a $237-billion company without ruffling some feathers.

I actually think the “leaving immediately” is far more honest than the bullshit you often see in press releases describing an executive’s departure.

When Apple fired VP Scott Forstall, for example, the press release noted that Forstall “will be leaving Apple next year and will serve as an advisor to CEO Tim Cook in the interim.” Anyone want to take bets on how many times Mr. Forstall’s car appears in the Apple HQ parking lot over the next year as he fulfills his role as “advisor to CEO Tim Cook”? The over/under is close to zero.

I’m sure countless insiders will weigh in with their takes on what happened here. My gut reaction? For those who see this as some sort of coup, note that Sinofsky’s most trusted lieutenant, Julie Larson-Green, is taking over his spot. That’s the very definition of an orderly transition and not what happens when regime change is the goal.

Personally, I will miss Mr. Sinofsky. He could be prickly, as my ZDNet colleague Mary Jo Foley will attest. But he is indisputably capable and an absolute genius at shipping great software on time. He delivered epic releases of Office and fixed Windows after the Vista disaster. Those are accomplishments that will be taught as case studies in business schools for years to come.

I’ve spent time with Ms. Larson-Green, most recently at the Windows 8 launch in New York City in late October. She’s a capable leader and, unlike her former boss, a team builder. She has already done great things with Office and Windows. She has the potential to do much more.

It’s worth noting that Microsoft is rare among large corporations in having two women in key leadership roles at the company’s most visible division.

Good luck to all.

3 thoughts on “Sinofsky out, Larson-Green in at Microsoft’s Windows division

  1. I agree with you, Ed. Mr. Sinofsky was not popular with the MVP community – but so what? I never thought of his position as a popularity contest. I loved Jim Allchin, and he, of course, achieved the unification of the code base that became Windows XP. Perhaps these guys each have one truly great OS in them. 😉 In any case, people today confuse popularity with competence and effectiveness. I have a great deal of respect for what Sinofsky was able to do, he turned out great products. To me, that’s what really counts.

  2. As I commented over in one of Mary Jo Foley’s posts, “I’m tired” would be a perfectly reasonable cause–along with the politics–for the departure.

  3. I still don’t get the “disaster” tag for Vista. It wasn’t a flawless transition for me, however the problems I had were not fixed by Windows 7. Some were fixed by vendors finally caring to get their drivers correct. That isn’t Microsoft’s fault, as these vendors had over a year before Vista release to get it right.

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