I don't know the back story here, but here's what I do know: Microsoft President Steven Sinofsky is leaving Microsoft, effective immediately -- just days after launching his babies, Windows 8 and the Microsoft Surface. And the new head of Windows is Julie Larson-Green.
As my CNET colleague Jay Greene reported, Microsoft is saying Sinofsky's departure was mutually agreed upon. Sinofsky is leaving to pursue other unspecified interests.
In the shake-up, announced on November 12, Microsoft said that Larson-Green will be promoted to lead all Windows software and hardware engineering. Tami Reller will continue on as chief financial officer and chief marketing officer and will assume responsibility for the business of Windows. Both executives will report directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, according to Microsoft's press release.
Julie Larson-Green has been Corporate Vice President, Program Management, Windows Client. Larson-Green is no stranger to Windows: She has had between 1,200 and 1,400 program managers, researchers, content managers and other members of the Windows team reporting to her.
Last time I got to interview her (March 2010), Larson-Green was in charge of Windows planning. Her colleagues Jon DeVaan and Grant George led Windows development and test, respectively. This core team of three reported directly to Sinofsky. This was a new structure for the Windows team since Windows 7 shipped. Rather than organizing Windows Client around smaller product units, the team operates more like the Microsoft Office team does -- not too surprising, given the leaders of the Windows team all came from Office.
Larson-Green applied to Microsoft right after she got her business management degree from Western Washington University, only to be told no. But she did land a job at desktop-publishing-software maker Aldus working on the product support call lines.
Microsoft "discovered" Larson-Green after a few Softies attended a talk she gave comparing Microsoft compilers to Borland compilers and asked her to run a Visual C++ focus group for the company. In 1993, she ended up landing a job on the Visual C++ team, where focused on the integrated development environment. She moved to the Internet Explorer team (where she worked on the user experience for IE 3.0 and 4.0) and then, in 1997, to the Office team to work on FrontPage, where she got her first group program manager job. She also did a stint on the SharePoint Team Services team, back when SharePoint was known as "Office.Net."
Larson-Green subsequently led user interface design for Office XP, Office 2003 and Office 2007.
I cannot pretend I am sad about the passing of the torch. I have been persona non grata with the Windows division for the entire time that Sinofsky ran it. Many long-time Microsoft employees, managers and testers have expressed similar sentiments, mostly in private. Here's hoping to better days, in terms of how the Windows client team interacts with all of its constituents: Its customers, partners and us Microsoft watchers.