Microsoft's Sinofsky way unavoidable for Windows 8

Microsoft's Sinofsky way unavoidable for Windows 8

Summary: Windows chief Steven Sinofsky gets criticized for central planning, but that may be necessary to get Windows 8 launched. Windows 9 may be a different story.


Microsoft's Windows President Steven Sinofsky is billed as polarizing and a central planner who keeps products on time, but has ruffled a few feathers along the way. In this view, the success of Windows 8 could be a referendum on Microsoft's software development approach.

CNET's Jay Greene did a profile of Sinofsky, who generally avoids the press unless he's talking products. Sinofsky was the fix-it man for Windows following the Vista debacle. Windows 7 is a hit. Windows 8 seems to be polarizing in many respects. Personally, I give Microsoft credit for Windows 8. Win, lose or draw you can't blame Microsoft for being timid.


Greene serves up a bunch of interesting nuggets, but the short version goes like this:

The functional organization structure championed by Sinofsky is a flashpoint for his critics. Managers beneath Sinofsky say they had greater control over product development, working across groups with engineers, product managers, and software testers. Now, they say they feel more like cogs in the machinery, marching toward a final pre-determined goal, without the authority to shift course if they believe there's a more innovative approach to product design.

One former Microsoft executive said Sinofsky is like a Soviet central planner.

Also: Windows 8 is the new XP | Delaying Windows Upgrades: Do You Feel Lucky?

Now if you play this out, Sinofsky's approach is interesting from a software development perspective. A few thoughts:

  • Open source development is prevalent on the enterprise side. You give multiple developers a piece and watch them go. Sinofsky's approach may not allow many to feel that involved. Open source developers are invested. A cog in the wheel isn't.
  • Consumer products and their user interfaces may need centralization. Apple is a prime example of a controlling company with central figures driving software development.
  • Windows 8's mission is complicated and may need to be centralized. Microsoft is trying to bridge multiple screens---PC, tablets and smartphones---with Windows 8. It's quite possible that mission of Windows 8 just didn't allow for artsy developers to have much of a say.
  • The touchy, feely approach may not work at scale. Microsoft is massive and requires a large company structure.
  • Sinofsky may be right guy at right time...for now. If you ponder Windows 8 in the evolution of Microsoft, Sinofsky may be what's needed. Like a coach who is a taskmaster, Sinofsky gets results. That approach works well---until it doesn't. In other words, what's required for Windows 8 may not be necessary for Windows 9. Sinofsky could yield to an executive who is more of a player's coach.

If Windows 8 succeeds---and frankly it could take a year to have a firm measure---Sinofsky's approach and a few disgruntled employees won't matter. If Windows 8 flops, Sinofsky probably will too.

More: Microsoft executive pay: CEO Ballmer and President Sinofsky dinged over browser-ballot issue

Topics: Windows, Enterprise Software, Microsoft

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  • This is exactly what MS needs

    MS has been (rightfully) criticized for the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing. Only one way to solve that.

    I applaud what MS is doing with Windows 8 and Windows Surface. It is clearly working. Now all that remains to be seen is if Apple can flood the Internet with enough anti-MS messaging to anti-competitively damage informed consumer choice. Right now, based on what I'm seeing, Apple's approach seems to be working. How sad for hundreds of millions of consumers who will be stuck with an iPad when a Microsoft Surface RT would be so much better for them.
    • It is clearly working?

      Would really like to hear your evidence that Microsoft recent direction is working. Windows Phone 7/7.5/7.8/8 has yet to show any measurable sign of success with it, if I recall correctly, 1.3% market share. Microsoft's Surface tablets aren't even on sale yet, pricing is only known for RT versions, and even that pricing is dubious given the limitations of RT. And Windows 8 itself, likewise not for sale yet, is polarizing at best. Given these facts, it's entirely speculative to definitively state that their approach is working.
      • That's a fair statement

        I was talking more about the technical merits of the products rather than the sales success of those products. This new direction has created the best products MS has ever created (from a technical point of view). Will those products see success in the marketplace? That is up to the marketing departments of MS and Apple.
        • Marketing

          Yea. that is the problem of MS. I keep hearing how much they spend in WP and Win8, but the result is just not there.
          They just don't know how to market their product. I see may Samsung Galaxy 3 billboard and ads in NYC but where are the WP and Surface ads? The only Surface ads I saw is on a bus stop. Cant they put it on bus? rent a bill Time Sqaure billboard? show Win8, surface WP non stop til xmas??
          • Actually, they did...

            They did, from what I remember, rent a Times Square billboard for the Surface. Also, they have just started their marketing campaign, which, according to some analysts, is well above a billion (some even say it's near 2 billion). They have started putting up ads for the Surface and Windows 8 on TV and, obviously, if you are spending a billion, that means that they will be advertising till Christmas (with a billion, I could be advertising for a whole year!). And, the products haven't launched yet so I expect them to, perhaps, increase the intensity of their advertisements as we near general availability and beyond that. Also, I'd expect more advertisements around Christmas because that's the real time for people to buy things.
      • Entirely speculative to definitively state that their approach is working?

        Market share of an older product isn't what the subject is here. He's talking about the management approach being used right now in development of current and new products.
        Maybe if they took this approach sooner, WP7 would have a larger market share, who knows?

        It's like saying that back during the development phase of the iPod that it would be entirely speculative to definitively state that Steve Job's approach is working, given the low marketshare of the Mac line of computers.

        Would the iPod have taken off as it did if Apple didn't have a centralized person overseeing development of both iPods AND iTunes, with AppleTV on the horizon?
        William Farrel
    • Maybe an Android tablet might be the best choice for somebody?

      People should evaluate different platforms and devices, and then make the choice that's best for them. They should not listen to "Apple haters", "Microsoft haters" or whatever, but make their own qualified decisions. If/when one platform fails, it's easy to blame whoever person/company you hate the most...
  • It's the right way to go

    Like the old saying goes: "Too many cooks in the kitchen". Now if only Linux would see this. Too many egos and icons in that world. Infighting is a waste of energy.
  • Microsoft's Sinofsky way unavoidable for Windows 8

    Had they followed Loverock Davidson advise everything would work like a well ioled machine. I'm sure at the next board meeting SB will bring up Loverock Davidson name as the logical replacement for this bungler. Loverock has the knowledge and needed karisma of a leader to get things back on tract.

    I suggest everyone here on ZDnet that feels that Loverock Davidson could do the job to send SB & BG a urgent e-maill to that effect.

    Mine is already in the mail.
    Over and Out
  • If Windoze 8 will succeed...wait

    that's not gonna happen. It's gonna fall harder than ME, Vista...
    • fully agree

      FOSS will smash M$ for good this time!
      LlNUX Geek
      • Emm...

        What's FOSS?? :-(
      • Keep digging that hole guys

        You do realise you'll need to change your displaynames here when Win 8 succeeds beyond your worst nightmares.

        and as for your F%cking Old Spaghetti Software - oh wait... that's not what it means?

      • Linux Geek, you're back!

        or is that L1nux Geek, now?
        William Farrel
    • Flop

      That is a very well documented oppinion. Thanks.
    • Give it a couple of years...

      everybody said XP would fail, that it was a lousy product, bugy and unstable.

      After a couple of years of very low uptake figures, it turned into a sales success.
      • No.

        Coming off of Windows ME I liked XP immensely. It was like being taken out of hell and being put into a comfy lawn chair. What bothers me about 8 the most is that the desktop interface was not messed up at all and they appear to be going out of their way to dick people who would want to use it.
  • Microsoft's Sinofsky way unavoidable for Windows 8

    That is Microsoft for you. I say good for Microsoft for having such a great team of leaders and developers. Kudos go to Sinofsky for bringing the vision of Microsoft Windows 8 to life and keeping the developers active and passionate about Windows 8. Here we are today eagerly awaiting the next 4 days until Microsoft Windows 8 is released so we can download and enjoy it in all of its glory.
    Loverock Davidson-
  • When was the last time a windows releases success could be measured after

    one year? XP was a miserable failure one year out. Now clung to 11 years later. It ususally take 405 years to determine the success or failure of a windows release.
    Johnny Vegas
    • 405 years?

      dig me up when you get an answer.
      William Farrel