Did Ballmer Clash Lead to Windows Chief Sinofsky's Exit?
First Apple shook up its leadership, including firing its iOS chief. Now Microsoft is following suit with its own executive sweep. Microsoft just announced Steve Sinofsky, president of both Windows and Windows Live, is immediately leaving the company. Neither Microsoft nor Sinofsky offered any official reason for his departure.
"It is impossible to count the blessings I have received over my years at Microsoft," Sinofsky said. "I am humbled by the professionalism and generosity of everyone I have had the good fortune to work with at this awesome company."
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said he's grateful for the many years of work that Sinofsky has contributed to the company. He noted that the products and services Microsoft has delivered to the market in the past few months mark the launch of a new era at the company.
"We've built an incredible foundation with new releases of Microsoft Office, Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, Microsoft Surface, Windows Server 2012 and 'Halo 4,' and great integration of services such as Bing, Skype and Xbox across all our products," 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."
Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, said it was likely Sinofsky was terminated for going around Ballmer to Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates. Enderle called Sinofsky an empire builder who is known for not cooperating well with others.
"Ballmer is trying to connect all the dots and get the entire company working together in an effort to build a homogenous solution that crosses all areas: services on the back end, hardware on the front end, and Microsoft at both ends and in between," Enderle said. "That means all the heads have to cooperate and work together, and Sinofsky's not that guy. He probably felt threatened, went to Gates and got shot just like [former head of Microsoft's Servers and Tools] Bob Muglia did."
Microsoft is promoting Julie Larson-Green to lead all Windows software and hardware engineering. Tami Reller retains her roles as CFO and CMO and will assume responsibility for the business of Windows. Both executives will report directly to Ballmer.
Larson-Green has worked on and led some of the most successful products for Microsoft since 1993. She had a hand in the user experiences for early versions of Internet Explorer, and helped drive the thinking behind the refresh of the user experience for Microsoft Office.
On the Windows 7 and Windows 8 front, Larson-Green was responsible for program management, user interface design and research, and development of all international releases. She has a master's degree in software engineering from Seattle University and a bachelor's degree in business administration from Western Washington University. In her new role she will be responsible for all future Windows product development in addition to future hardware opportunities.
"Leading Windows engineering is an incredible challenge and opportunity," Ballmer said, "and as I looked at the technical and business skills required to continue our Windows trajectory -- great communication skills, a proven ability to work across product groups, strong design, deep technical expertise, and a history of anticipating and meeting customer needs -- it was clear to me that Julie is the best possible person for this job, and I'm excited to have her in this role."
Reller joined Windows in 2007 from the Microsoft Dynamics division, where she held a number of leadership positions. She began her career in technology at Great Plains Software in 1984 while still in college, and was the company's CFO when Microsoft acquired the firm in 2001.
Reller has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Minnesota State University at Moorhead and an MBA from St. Mary's College in Moraga, Calif. In her expanded role she will assume the lead in driving business and marketing strategy for Windows devices, including Surface and partner devices, in addition to her current marketing and finance responsibilities.