Was Sinofsky fired for Microsoft's sins?

Was Sinofsky fired for Microsoft's sins?

Summary: I’m convinced: If Windows 8 and Surface had been the run-away successes Microsoft hoped for and needed, Sinofsky would still be at Microsoft. Instead, he's the scapegoat for their failures.

Sinofsky was fired for Microsoft's Windows 8 and Surface sins.

When Microsoft fired... excuse me, announced that Windows and Windows Live President Steven Sinofsky is leaving the company, many Microsoft experts opined that he left because of internal politics. Sorry. I don't buy that argument for a New York minute. If Windows 8 took off at the same rate Windows 7 did--with developers anxiously looking forward to publishing software for it--and had Sinofsky’s strategic moves worked, such as Microsoft deciding to make its own Windows 8 hardware, we'd be talking about Sinofsky as Steve Ballmer's successor, not left wondering what the heck just happened.

Yes, I'm sure internal politics had something do with it. Sinofsky wasn't the easiest guy to work with. You know whom else I've met in the technology business who wasn’t that easy to work with? Guys like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Larry Ellison. While being self-centered and cocksure of yourself causes friction, when you make successful technology and business decisions, it doesn’t kill your career.

Nice guys usually finish last at top tech companies. What counts, what always really counts in tech, is delivering the hot technology on which people spend serious money. If you blow that, and you're not the CEO, you're history. Just ask Scott Forstall, former head of Apple's iOS.

Like Sinofsky, Forstall didn't get along well with a lot of his company's top brass. For years, that didn't matter. The iOS-powered iPod, iPhone, and iPad were, and still are, killer devices. But, then Forestall started making mistakes. Siri didn't work that well (or at least it wasn’t the killer app everyone hoped for) and then Forstall decided to dump Google Maps from iOS 6. With the Apple Map mess, for the first time even the most loyal Apple fan had to admit that Apple had blundered.

No one inside of Microsoft is saying that Windows 8 is a blunder. That is, they aren’t saying it yet. Give it a few years. But, ignore all the rah-rah Windows 8 fan-talk and take a closer look. What do you see?

I see Windows 8 early adopters preferring Windows 7 by two to one. That wasn't people like me who are cynical about Windows; these were true-blue believers.

Windows developers? ZDNet's own Matt Baxter-Reynolds, a self-confessed Windows 8 fan, wrote that one of Sinofsky's fundamental mistakes was a push for WinRT over .NET, and its associated push towards old-style proprietary development over a more open-source friendly approach. By deprecating .NET for native Windows 8 and Windows RT, Sinofsky made programming moves that were "nothing short of disastrous."

I talk to a lot of developers, and they agree. Windows 8 mobile was never attractive to iOS and Android programmers because there wasn't enough money in its market. Windows developers, those with years of experience in .NET, found WinRT to be a pain to program in. Such fundamental questions as how Windows Phone 8 APIs will merge with Windows Store (a.k.a. Metro) app APIs remain unanswered.

All that could have been forgiven if Windows 8 had been a bestseller. It's not. We don't have real numbers yet, but early indications aren't good. Steve Ballmer admitted that Surface RT sales were “modest.” That, I might add, is after Sinofsky personally intervened to speed up Surface deliveries.

Frankly, I'm surprised if anyone would buy a Surface RT. Whether you compare it to an iPad, an Ultrabook, or a Chromebook, Surface RT is over-priced and under-powered. It's a toy for early adopters and true Windows RT developers (http://www.zdnet.com/i-love-windows-8-but-surface-rt-is-for-early-adopters-and-developers-7000006459/), not ordinary users.

Windows 8 PC sales also don't look good. The analysts describe Windows 8's outlook as "mixed." Personally, I've been talking to both OEMs and retailers. They are, in a phrase, not happy. In particular, they're getting push-back from users who want "real Windows," not Windows 8.

That's one reason why HP is walking very, very carefully about Windows 7 support on its Windows 8 consumer PCs. As well they should. HP tied its consumer PC future to Windows 8, which at least one analyst thinks was a foolish move. You can say that again!

So what really happened? Was politics part of the reason he was fired? Sure.

Was part of it a desire for Microsoft to get rid of one their best, albeit controversial, software developer managers before getting to grips with the next version of Windows? I find that one harder to buy, but at least one Microsoft expert has proposed it.

Here's what I think really happened. The straw that broke the camel's back was that neither Windows 8 nor Surface were blockbuster successes. Had they been so, none of the rest would matter. As it is, Sinofsky was fired for Microsoft's sins.

That doesn’t mean he was responsible for all of Microsoft's mistakes. I don't think the real blame for Windows 8, Surface, and Microsoft's other recent shortcomings should fall on Sinofsky's shoulders. The true culprit in Microsoft's long slow decline remains Steve Ballmer and the board that lets him stay in charge of the company. After all, at day's end, Ballmer, not Sinofsky, is Microsoft's boss.

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Topics: Microsoft, Apple, Hardware, Software, Software Development, Tablets, PCs, Windows

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  • Wow - you can tell who wrote the blog just by the headline

    I think the word is "predictable". :)
    William Farrel
    • Oh, and here's what i think really happened

      The straw that broke the bloggers's back was that other pro Linux bloggers feel that Windows 8 will be a blockbuster successes. Had they been negative, while not having tried it, none of the rest would matter. As it is, Sinofsky was fired for butting too many heads, and SJVN needs to create some imagined sins to feel vindicated.

      I'll wager that is much closer to the truth then what I just read here. ;)
      William Farrel
      • The fool cited Matt Baxter-Reynolds as reference

        ... whose FUD about hard to code for Win8 has been debunked in the comment section by several developers having real world Win8 development experience.
        • You are the Fox News of tech news

          I didn't have an account before I read this article. I made one just to post on this. You are the FOX NEWS of tech news. And I think anyone especially in the tech sector knows that's a bad thing. According to every inside source and credible journalist its because he drew lines in the sand and fought with almost anyone. If you would stop pushing this anti Microsoft agenda and listen to the facts from the rest of the tech world you would understand your story is completely and utterly wrong.
      • From MS to Linux

        Maybe he'll go work .......Redhat Linux :-)
    • Another sad article by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

      Mr. Sinofsky, after 23 years with Microsoft, is surely leaving a very wealthy individual. With quite a resume:


      which includes an M.S. in computer science from Cornell, Microsoft Office 2000/XP/2003, Windows 7 and a book co-authored with Marco Iansiti of Harvard Business School. I wonder how many of the trolls here at ZDNet have an M.S. in computer science or have authored a serious book that integrates business, information technology and project management.

      For those interested in a journalistic treatment of Mr. Sonofsky's Microsoft departure, here is a link (reference no. 8 in the wikipedia link above):


      And as a credit to ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley's journalism, the wikipedia link above includes her article on this topic as reference no. 12. Her article was also linked in SJVN's 'piece'.

      P.S. Steven, I for one would like to see some ZDNet blog articles on BSD, FOSS software written exclusively for Windows and lesser-known FOSS software than attacks on Microsoft, Microsoft's employees and former Microsoft employees.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
  • You never disappoint SJVN!

    You're as predictable as the sun coming up.
  • Bollocks as per usual...

    He's been sacked when W8 sales have been pretty decent (don't deny it, 4m upgrades in 3 days is good going), and replaced with his immediate lieutenants who worked on, among other things, the live tiles?

    If MS was having major misgivings about W8 they'd have thrown out the entire management staff that oversaw it. They didn't. This is an exec shuffle and nothing more.
    • That was a very logical rebuttal argument.

      A top Win 8 lieutenant would not have been put in charge had Window 8 consumer acceptance been the primary issue. Well stated, SupaRawr93.
      • @SupaRawr93 is right.

        Windows 8 sales are good as per good number of analysts. You could think like this, once Windows 8 becomes successful, Sinofsky will try to takeover his long term interest Windows Phone which he failed to takeover last time. Once WP8 goes into his division, it will be essentially entertainment and devices and then so on until total Microsoft. By then most of the executives of various Microsoft divisions, who actually worked hard to bring them into limelight, will leave, which may or may not be good for Microsoft in long run. This may become threat to the existence of Steve Ballmer at Microsoft.
        Ram U
  • Since you hate Windows 8

    then you expect anything that sounds bad (someone leaving = fired) as response to the awful Windows 8. But then you state that Ballmer is really at fault and is still there. If Windows 8/RT was considered a failure now, then Ballmer would be the one going. However, that isn't the case. This was about politics and changing how internal Microsoft runs. They want more collaboration across departments and to do that they need Sinofsky to leave.
  • Well, here is another view/opinion that seems to support yours


    The shills/fan boys are starting to freak out it seems.
    • And another one

      • AllThingsD has the same

        In the Sinofsky Departure, Bill Gates Sided With the Other Steve (Ballmer) at Microsoft

  • Was Sinofsky fired for Microsoft's sins?

    No, I don't buy your argument for one New York minute. He wasn't fired at all, he resigned. He had his good run at Microsoft. He made his mark with Microsoft Windows 8 and Microsoft Surface and wanted to move on to other things most likely outside of IT. Perhaps he wanted to venture into healthcare taking after that great Bill Gates. Point is he went out on the high road after having great success instead of having a failure.

    "If Windows 8 took off at the same rate Windows 7 did"
    Which it did, Microsoft Windows 8 sold over 4 million copies of the upgrade on its first weekend. The Microsoft Surface RT sold out. Both of these were under Sinofsky. Not only did Microsoft Windows 8 take off but its also already a success and hasn't been out for a month.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • To quote Burn After Reading...

      ..Yeah, well, most of the people in this town who quit, were fired.
    • Wrong again - your are, if nothing else, very consistent

      Even your idol Gates agreed to fire him

    • you might be right

      Rats leave the sinking ship first.

      Sinofsky is just as smart as Bill Gates, it seems.
  • fantasy

    Wow you need to be a fantasy writer cause cause your are way out there, I bet the reason is he's got a life that's he's had to put on hold trying and successfully meeting all the deadlines for win 8, win phone 8, office , etc, remember they canceled they're vacation and everything in order to get thing done on time, that had to be tiresome, I bet he ain't sleep in a 6 months
  • You're talking to the wrong devs

    The XP upgrade / Win 7 upgrade market is easily over 1billion potential customers for the Win 8 store with code portability to WP8 and Xbox.

    Android is what you counter with. Malware laden, PI mining platform built on stolen IP. HTC must be giving Moto heart palpitations today.