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The Sin(ofsky)s Of The Father


A day later, all of the stories about the Steven Sinofsky departure seem to be pointing in the same general direction:

  • That he was indeed fired (or asked to leave).
  • That he clashed with Steve Ballmer.
  • That he didn’t work well with others.
  • That Ballmer wanted a more collaborative Microsoft.
  • That Windows 8 and Surface sales had nothing to do with it.

What I’ve heard from people both inside and close to Microsoft is in line with all of those things. But I’m still not sold on the last point.

Is it too early to gauge the success of Windows 8 and the Surface in the market? Sure. But Microsoft certainly has their own internal metrics and indicators that give them a better sense of how things are going. I’m obviously not privy to such data, but a 23-year veteran of Microsoft, the man in charge of both projects, was just fired.

It certainly seems like he didn’t work well with others. But he probably hasn’t for the past 23 years. At the very least, that seems to be the case for the past several years since he’s been running the Windows division, and the years running the Office division before that. Both remained huge successes, so no one seemed to care. What changed?

Yes, there are obvious parallels to the Scott Forstall situation inside of Apple. But the overall situation is different as Tim Cook is only one year into the job and felt the need to consolidate power while streamlining internal processes (his M.O.). Ballmer has been on the job (as CEO) with Sinofsky for 13 years. Again, what changed?

My (unsubstantiated) guess remains Windows 8 and the Surface. I think we’ll see this play out in the months ahead.

Sinofsky was the driving force behind the “no compromise” approach to Windows 8. I believe that approach is at the heart of the ultimate problem with the OS. As two separate halves, Windows 8 and Metro seem fine. As a whole, the OS seems like a schizophrenic mess. Microsoft should have copied the Apple approach with OS X/iOS, keeping them separate and slowly merging them over time by taking the best of both.

It was Sinofsky’s call to do the opposite. And he went on and on and on about it as he oddly defined “compromise” by extolling the virtues of not compromising.

Meanwhile, the Surface is a mess. My full review is forthcoming, but it’s hard to imagine why anyone buys this device beyond initial curiosity. Maybe the “Pro” version of the Surface is better and will make some sense, but the initial Surface is another weird combination of things that yes, define compromise.

Ultimately, I have this strange feeling that the strict adherence to “no compromise” with Windows 8 is what led to there being no compromise when it came to Sinofsky staying with the company. We may never know if my feeling is right or not, but the numbers over the next few months should be at least directionally revealing.

Ultimately, I don’t think Forstall gets fired without the Maps situation (and to a lesser extent, the Siri issues and his “no compromise” approach to design). And I think there’s an even more straightforward reason why Sinofsky is out. I think Microsoft can see it right now. And I think we’ll all be able to see it before long.

MG forgot point #6

—Ballmer was going to be fired, so he fired the #2 guy, to delay the boot and get his year end bonus