The rumor mills are spinning wildly about Steve Sinofsky, the outgoing Microsoft Windows 8 and Windows Live chief. Now Sinofsky is starting to answer some of the gossip.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer earlier this week announced Sinofsky's departure, offering no reason and opening the door to plenty of speculation. Sinofsky was also tight-lipped about his sudden exit, which came three months after the Windows 8 launch.
"It is impossible to count the blessings I have received over my years at Microsoft," Sinofsky said when his departure was first announced. "I am humbled by the professionalism and generosity of everyone I have had the good fortune to work with at this awesome company."
Did Sinofsky Lose Battles?
The only hint of wrongdoing, if you can call it that, in Ballmer's commentary was a nod toward the need to drive alignment across all Microsoft teams and have more integrated and rapid development cycles for the company's offerings.
With so little said by either party, it didn't take long for rumors to start flying about Sinofsky going around Ballmer to win the ear of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates. Other speculation suggested Sinofsky was actually after Ballmer's position. Others said Sinofsky wanted to build his own empire.
But for all the rumors circulating the Internet, it was a blog post by Hal Berenson, president of True Mountain Group's consulting business -- and an ex-Microsoft employee -- that elicited a response from Sinofsky.
"Steven had apparently lost recent battles to bring both Windows Phone and the Developer Division under his control. I suspect that he saw those losses both as a roadblock to where he wanted to take Windows over the next few years and a clear indication that his political power within Microsoft had peaked," Berenson wrote. "At the very point where he should have been able to ask for, and receive, almost anything as reward for his proven success, he got slapped down. And so he chose to leave."
Sinofsky Talks Back
Sinofsky took exception to this, replying in the blog comments that he never initiated any discussions to bring together the organizations or products Berenson described. Sinofsky also said no one ever approached him to manage them as part of Windows 7 or 8.
"If we had worked together you would know that historically, very few things moved into teams I managed (as you've no doubt seen in internal blogs) and when they did I usually pushed back hard looking for a cross-group way to achieve the goal (in other words, decide open issues rather than force an org change to subsequently decide something)," Sinofsky wrote. "It is far better to collaborate with the org in place and avoid the disruption unless it is on a product cycle boundary and far better to plan and execute together than just organize together."
We turned to Roger Kay, principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates, to get his take on the unfolding drama. Considering the $17.5 million worth of Microsoft stock Sinofsky owns and his veteran stature in the industry, Kay told us he's not too worried about him.
"He certainly knows his stuff," Kay said. "It's not like he'll have a hard time finding a job, if he wants one."