Microsoft inside baseball: Are all collaborations created equal?

Microsoft inside baseball: Are all collaborations created equal?

Summary: Tea-leaf-reading alert: More signs are pointing to some kind of Microsoft reorg coming that will likely feature the Windows client unit.

TOPICS: Microsoft, Windows

During Microsoft's big reveal on November 27 that it had sold 40 million licenses of Windows 8 in the past month, there was an interesting exchange about "collaboration" that is worth calling out.

"Collaboration" -- and lack thereof -- was something that came to the fore when Microsoft Windows President Steven Sinofsky abruptly left the company a couple of weeks ago. Hints abounded that a big reason Sinofsky and Microsoft parted ways was due to Sinofsky not being collaborative enough to work at Microsoft going forward. My reading of the tea leaves: Some kind of reorg is in the wings which will involve currently separate business units being "reimagined" into new cross-organizational structures.

Not everyone seems to be on the same page regarding Sinofsky's supposed unwillingness to collaborate. In fact, Tami Reller, the Chief Marketing and Financial Officer in the Windows unit, painted quite the collaborative Windows org picture during her remarks at the Credit Suisse Annual Tech Conference yesterday.

Here's an excerpt from the exchange between Reller and Credit Suisse's Phil Winslow about the effect of Sinofsky's departure:

PHIL WINSLOW: They call it the triumvirate that was underneath Sinofsky. They're all still there. They're all still basically committed and all that, I guess.

TAMI RELLER: That's absolutely right. And I think that Julie (Larson-Green) has such an ability to not only set a vision for the product, but just to be able to carry on the collaboration that really was such a key part of Windows 8. I mean, think about Windows 8 and what we were able to bring together from assets across the company, whether it was the work that we did in Office to make that a key part of the Windows RT value proposition, whether it was Xbox and just how integrated that is. And the concept of being able to have the Xbox service just fully integrated in, whether it's music or video into the Windows 8 experience, Xbox Smart Glass if you haven't checked that out that's a great app. And Bing, I can go on and on. There is so much we were able to accomplish, and we just see the possibility that that presents to consumers, and we just want to keep that going, and Julie and the team will be able to do that.

Reller's comments reflected the same message Sinofsky himself shared in a recent Tweet:



"(N)ot 'my child.' work reqd Windows, Office, Bing, XBOX Game, XBOX Music/Video, Skype, Azure, +more & code sharing w/Phone 8, Server," tweeted Sinofsky in response to blogger Richard Hay referring to Surface as Sinofsky's "child."

In early November, shortly before Sinofsky left, he posted on his internal blog has latest ruminations about collaboration. (I've seen a chunk of the post, but have been asked by the person who shared it not to post it in its entirety.) The post reiterated what others say is Sinofsky's long-held position that org changes aren't the best way to achieve collaboration. One snippet from the post:

"Having two groups report together doesn't address the reasons that led to a challenging collaboration — if groups have different schedules or vectors on principles then make those changes without an org change. If you can't make those changes without an org change then why will they change if the org changes?"

This all makes me think some kind of reorg is, indeed, coming. And that the Windows client unit is going to be in the thick of it.

Will the long-rumored merger of the Windows client and Windows Phone team be the result? Sinofsky said last month that he "never initiated any discussions to bring together (those two) organizations/products" and that no one had asked him "to manage them as part of Windows 7 or 8." That denial left doors open, regarding whether others initiated these discussions and whether this will happen in the post-Windows 8 timeframe. (Not to mention who would be in charge of any such combined organization.)

Any other tea-leaf readers out there? What do you think is coming down the pike, org-wise and product-wise in the new, more "collaborative" Microsoft?

Topics: Microsoft, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • More collaboration is good IF......

    there is visionary leadership. If not, it is just a nice slow march to mediocrity and oblivion.

    We'll see which one it turns out to be.
  • Business vs consumer split

    How are they going to blend their business and consumer interests? Will Visual Studio, SQL Management Studio, and the SSAS tools all get rewritten in the "Windows Store UI" (can we call them Wussie apps?) Or will the future desktop be restricted like RT is with only MS applications approved?
    • and also

      how this will affect Windows Servers?
      I hope that MS will not force touch on those, right?
  • Do you have anything better to do?

    While Mary Jo referenced the sales figure, it is not the focus of this article... please go somewhere else.
  • No incentive

    that fits what I've concluded; that perhaps SS looked at the planned structure and didn't want to work within it. Because you can't just say "teams: collaborate" without dealing with the issues that stop the collaboration happening already. There is zero incentive for cross group collaboration in the Microsoft reporting/reward structure and unless the reorg puts that in, the same problem children will carry on making cross-group work hard. What I see here is Ballmer taking a tighter grip on Microsoft.
  • Amazing

    How many are missing the point here. It is more and more apparent that Microsoft and Apple are seeing the same world in front of them. The desktop is fading from the general-purpose device and the consumer worlds. So the sooner their flagship OS products align around that the better. Desktops won't go away - they will be used by those that need the power or those creating the content for the other devices. So a client that can mirror that world will be needed. Thus the realignment at Apple that will eventually merge iOS and OSX, and now Windows doing the same. Windows Server will probably diverge even more into a heavy-lifting OS like Unix or Linux (Apple really didn't have a dog in that hunt).

    And for the Linux fans - eventually Android and Chrome will merge. Wonder which name will be kept (Android - please!). And it is no secret that Canonical (Ubuntu) wants to get into the device OS market. They see the writing on the wall too.

    Like Intel getting out of making desktop user-upgradable CPUs, it is definitely apparent the world is changing. So Windows, Windows Phone, and (by extension) XBOX coming together for the consumer platform would not be surprising. And neither are the Windows 8 results. The last couple of go-rounds people didn't upgrade as much as they used to, and desktop sales aren't anywhere near what they used to be. So Windows 8's market performance is not a shock. Would have been more surprised otherwise.
    • @jwspicer

      Great Job! I was about to write something similar, but you've voiced my opinion perfectly!
      lenalfred DaredDarkurious
  • some tea-leaf readings...

    if groups have different schedules or vectors on principles then make those changes without an org change.

    >> Basically he is mentioning about the "cultural" differences between teams, and I think "culture" is a better way to sum it. And he is right, before any re-org that is the first thing to get corrected or may be synced up. Each team will have their own conscience. But along with that one effective way to bring about that syncing of spirits is to have these teams/orgs report to an individual respected by both. And that is the most difficult part about re-orgs. Such a person is a difficult find and if there you have such a person, then the re-org should be immediate and the people leaving out because of these changes should be moved to a new fresh places where they can forget their past and get rid off their egos and start afresh.

    I see the W unit should be merged into one whole unit, PCs, Tablets, Phones, Servers ... they are all born from the same core and they should march forward together in perfect harmony.
  • My Guess: Abandonment Of Windows 8/RT/Phone

    Now that the guy responsible for the whole TIFKAM fiasco has been sacked, I think Microsoft can regain a lot of its market credibility by giving up on those stupid "tiles", recognizing that Windows belongs on the desktop, not on mobile, and embracing Android as its recommended mobile OS. After all, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!
    • Pretty useless, aren't you?

      Look, no matter how much you want to knock Windows 8, the fact is that, it's quite a success already, and it's going to be successful across all form-factors, including smartphones and tablets and laptops and desktops and in gaming systems and embedded systems and TV and whatever else can be "W-Eighted" (W8-ed).

      You'll be either having nightmares the rest of your life, or you will be assimilated. ;)