Microsoft inside baseball: Are all collaborations created equal?

Tea-leaf-reading alert: More signs are pointing to some kind of Microsoft reorg coming that will likely feature the Windows client unit.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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?

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