The news this morning of the immediate departure of Steve Sinofsky, Microsoft’s Windows chief was clouded in mystery.
Allow me to give you some reasons that will shed some light on this Sinofsky mystery. First off Sinofsky leaving Microsoft is a major loss for the software giant; more from an execution standpoint than a leadership standpoint.
The discussion around Sinofsky leaving right after handing in his resignation was one of leadership. The thought is that Sinofsky is in line to take over from current CEO Steve Ballmer. I can tell you Sinofsky may have been in the line, but his place in that line is similar to Prince Andrew’s position for the next King of England. Sure he is in the mix, but Microsoft has been grooming Kevin Turner – the COO - for at least four years now and he is the choice to take over from Ballmer whenever he decides to step down. By the way there are no plans from what I’ve heard from my sources of an imminent Ballmer retirement.
Still the exit of Sinofsky does not make much sense from a business point of view. When a senior level VP decides he or she has had enough and wants to leave that person must stay to help the replacement with the transition. This will not happen. Ballmer promoted Julie Larson-Green, who is a rising star inside Microsoft to lead all Windows software and hardware engineering.
She looks to be coming in cold, but I’ve heard that is not the case as Larson-Green has been involved in the Windows 8 plans from the start.
I attended the launch event for Windows 8 and Surface in New York and if body language is any indication I noticed that Sinofsky looked to be totally at ease. He performed a stunt where he rode a skateboard made from a Surface tablet. At the end of the presentation he causally came up to the press and chatted us up. He had a big smile on his face. It seemed to me that the pressure was off him or a big weight was now off his shoulders.
Conversely Ballmer was not his usual cheerleader-shelf. He was low key. He did not shout from what I remember. And, he shouts at presentations all the time. Take my opinion for what its worth: but it seamed to me that Ballmer was ticked off.
And, Ballmer should be ticked off because Microsoft is in the midst of the company’s biggest product launch ever. The Windows 8 launch was an excellent start and the momentum is building. Ballmer does not want to stop this momentum.
Cindy Bates, the vice president of U.S. SMB & Distribution for Microsoft, at her VARnex Conference keynote address said after Windows 8 Microsoft plans to release Windows Server 2012, Windows Phone 8, Office, Office 365, Sharepoint 2013, Exchange 2013, Windows Intune and Internet Explorer through out the rest of this year and into next year. Bates added that all these broad product releases represents an opportunity of a lifetime for channel partners.
On top of that Microsoft is closely working with OEM partners such as HP, Lenovo, Acer, Asus, Toshiba, Samsung, Sony and Fujitsu.
That is a lot of moving parts and Microsoft and its top executives need to execute in partnership with several other executives in the channel to make sure all these new products get launched, the solution providers are ready to sell from day one and keep the momentum going.
Not having Sinofsky on board to run things slows down the momentum and stunts the growth opportunities for solution providers, OEM partners and Microsoft.