It's hard to overstate the scope and influence Sinofsky had at MSFT. This was a man widely expected to be the next CEO and he had impact way outside his organization (the 'Sinofsky-ization of teams').
Also, his stock was rising inside MSFT (when you stay inside the company long enough, you can sense which executives are in trouble and which ones are going up).
This is a unexpected move which is going to change Microsoft at a deep level.
You're right that this will change Microsoft at a deep level, but I think odds are good that it's a change for the better.
Personally, Sinofsky was one of the biggest reasons I left Microsoft. He was willing to ditch potentially game-changing products/features spanning multiple industries because it didn't align with his idea of software engineering, which was more suited for boxed software like Office than for rapidly deploying services. He didn't/doesn't get services - he's a boxed software guy at his core. All the Office Live stuff happened after he left Office - arguably he should have seen it coming and been ahead of the game while he was running Office.
If Microsoft is as full of smart people as is rumored, Sinofsky is far from the only guy there who disagrees with Ballmer.
If Ballmer fires them and installs yes-men in their place it'll be the end of Microsoft.
Could be hard for someone like that to take advice from engineers below him who have half or less the experience.
But designers tend to drastically underestimate discoverabity, particularly discoverabity by novice users. Many entire software companies exist purely because the market leader's product lacks discoverabity of a feature. Twitter, in some ways, exists because blogging software doesn't make it obvious that you can use their platforms for microblogging.
If you think of usability as a funnel, with discoverabity feeding into learnability feeding into usefulness feedin into ease of use feeding into efficiency feeding into fun, discoverabity is like your home page. It's where you have the biggest drop off of engagement typically, and it's where problems can absolutely make or break you.
Offscreen and corner gestures, while useful and efficient, are often so undiscoverable that they almost exist only for power users. On the lates Build and Analyze, Marco Arment said he has to include a button to show the side navigation on The Magazine because so many people have no idea they can swipe in from the left.
Apple typically gets this better than most companies, and will use a text button instead of a gesture because they know that even if 80% of users discover the gesture, they just can't rely on it for your core interaction. Because the 20% will just walk away and tell all their friends the product is crap.
My prediction is that over-reliance on gestures and hot corners will put a serious damper on Windows 8 and Windows Phone's network effects. It's good design for power users, but it's in no way universal design and for an OS universal design is a must.
I think you either missed "the importance of" or meant "overestimate".
It's that hardware feature that stands for 95% of the usability of the device.
Personally I think the product is incredible in many ways, and overall very overwhelming/impressive relative to my expectations, however to me it has two very core faults:
1. Performance. Many actions are perfectly fine, however v things like videos can be choppy, and even reading a Kindle book is choppy.
2. DPI of the screen. It's a nice screen, and the responsiveness even beats the iPad (incredibly), though after using new high-res displays, the Surface screen looks pixelated (primarily when rendering text).
A friend with $500-600 comes to you and asks what tablet he should get. Can you recommend a surface over the latest iPad? We can't say "oh, give it time, the ecosystem will get better, hardware will improve" -- your friend needs something today. (That's why it's underwhelming to me. It isn't a good deal against its competitors.)
I don't think there's an obvious answer to which tablet provides more value - it's very context-specific.
In the same way, if someone wants a top of the line tablet, it just seems obvious it's an iPad. That's what almost anyone with a tablet is going to have. It's just going to fit the expectation of what a tablet is for a naive user. Surface doesn't. Just like Linux on a desktop may be better in your context-specific suggestion, but it isn't what a naive user thinks a computer is.
Unless the friend also wants to pay me regularly to teach or tech support their computing device, in which case I might go outside the expected zone, but I've yet to find this to be the case.
From the first paragraph of the article:
Prior to its announcement on July 22, 2005, Windows Vista was known by its codename "Longhorn"
edit: ref to wikipedia
edit2: suggestion to parent.
In late 2004 we cancelled the project and scrapped all the code we'd written since 2001. We forked Windows Server 2003, and reworked the specs to get the most bang for the buck on a limited time budget. Compromises like using a search index instead of a relational db filesystem, the sidebar was rewritten for the 3rd time, etc. All in all, it was an ok release considering.
On a side note: Do you think the Wikipedia article is accurate?
I think you just have to read more, for example:
You can't expect to quote one single line out of a whole series of articles and expect to get the whole story.
Both (Longhorn and Workplace) were the culmination of RDBMS hype, where companies left and right tried to solve every problem by using hammer as a tool of choice.
Back to Longhorn, it has been chronically late and finally the project got dumped and rebased upon NT stack. Thus Vista was indeed a rushed attempt of fixing the Longhorn fiasco and after that Win7 was a solution to the Vista fiasco.
Thus from the viewpoint of how bad it could (and indeed should) have been. Both Vista and Win7 were an exceptional success.
Also it made me really appreciate how nimble and agile Microsoft really is.
XP released in 2001; Vista released in 2007, essentially an updated XP with some Aero bells and PMP whistles. That it was only started in 2005 after throwing away the Longhorn fiasco stuff does not make Microsoft "nimble" or "agile" in my opinion.
MS is not agile in the same sense as your YC funded startup is. That would be comparing speedboats to super tankers and in the world of super tankers Microsoft is one of the super tankerest of them all.
Nokia, RIM, Boeing, HP, Yahoo and many others couldn't pull a single "pivot" out of the hat all the while Microsoft keeps on dancing.
They are far from my favorite companies, however Microsoft and IBM prove year by year that elephants can and do dance. And what a gracious waltz that is. For an elephant of course.
Vista was pretty extensively reworked under the hood. It featured UAC, new driver models, a completely reworked network stack, and a new, vastly-improved memory manager among other things.
Vista was, ultimately, far less ambitious than Microsoft had intended for Longhorn -- which is why they essentially scrapped the project and started over in 2004 -- but it was still a quantum leap over XP from a technical perspective.
W7 is essentially a UI-updated and polished Vista (which is why the NT version number only bumped from NT6.0 to NT6.1), but even given the relatively incomplete state of Vista at launch, it was a huge step forward for Windows, and certainly more that "an updated XP with some Aero bells and PMP whistles."
That's a matter of perspective and spin. Vista is what was salvaged from Longhorn. The plans for Longhorn were much more ambitious.
> I think that you are thinking of Windows 7 being rushed, focused, and pragmatic fix to the fiasco that was Vista.
I doubt it, and it seems that cookingrobot knows what he's talking about here a lot more than you do. Windows 7 was the fix to the fix.
That Vista was a fiasco is debatable - the fact that with minor tweaks and smoothing out (Windows 7 is basically Vista Service pack 2) it was a hit suggests that despite the bad press that Vista got initially, it wasn't that bad.
That is very true. Re-reading cookingrobot's original comment I can know see that I misinterpreted his comment. I was thrown by the part where he wrote "don't remember Longhorn?" which made me think he was under the impression that Longhorn was a version of Windows released to consumers.
it seems that cookingrobot knows what he's talking about here a lot more than you do
This seems a bit rude? I can't quite put my finger on the reason why as it is a true statement - cookingrobot does sound like he knows the truth of the matter.
p.s.: your handle made me smile!
They (the consumers) are unintentionally blind to the landscape, this will be new to a ton of people and/or right under their noses for the first time. This is the time.
Not a good sign of Ballmer's ability to choose leaders.
Sources inside Microsoft say a clash of personalities led to Sinofsky's departure: http://www.theverge.com/2012/11/12/3638340/microsoft-steven-...
Steven Sinofsky's letter to Microsoft employees explaining his departure: http://www.theverge.com/2012/11/12/3638770/steven-sinofskys-...
A former co-worker of mine used to occasionally bring up the first company email he received: "Effective immediately, so-and-so (not my coworker, someone from a different department) is no longer employed at <company name>. There will be no further comment on this matter."
Any MSFT'ers here who can comment on their backgrounds?
Julie has been a stalwart leader of building compelling “experiences” from her time on Internet Explorer
It seems very weird to put the word "experiences" in quotes. It makes it seem as if the writer is using it sarcastically, or is in some way disclaiming what they are writing. What in the world justifies the quotes, and why wouldn't an editor get rid of them?
Windows is too big of an organization to steer by force of will. Hopefully the new head will be somewhat less contentious and more willing to defer to her deputies (supposition), but be similarly demanding in accountability.
Agreed, although not to the level of Sinofsky, Larsen-Green is pretty darn awesome in her own right. At least that is my opinion.
But so while it wasn't called a tablet and differed a bit from the near-Platonic contemporary tablet form, it's pretty close to a tablet in terms of UX, use-case, obvious apps...
Both of them equally sad departures. The latter more so.
>When asked about Surface, Steve’s use of the term “modest” was in relation to the company’s approach in ramping up supply and distribution of Surface with Windows RT, which has only been available via our online store and Microsoft retail and holiday stores in the U.S. and Canada. While our approach has been modest, Steve notes the reception to the device has been “fantastic” which is why he also stated that “soon, it will be available in more countries and in more stores.”
I never worked in one of Sinofski's orgs, but I know quite a few people who did. I got the impression that a lot of old timers and under-performers disliked him. Most of the people that I really respected liked him. From my perspective, that's the best kind of "divisive figure" to have.
Maybe he pushed too hard...
I also recall he wrote in a blog post that it should be expected that people in their early 20s work unreasonably long hours and have no social life, and that expectation was clear if you looked at the rank and file of many important teams: lots of kids right out of college doing the work that you'd expect someone more experienced to have some role in, or at least mentor; I saw a fair number of regressions and crappy features result from this approach.
Years ago some commenter on the "Mini Microsoft" blog called him "The George W. Bush of Microsoft". I tend to agree.
"The only thing I would say is that anyone who tells you how cool it is to pull all-nighters on commercial software or anyone who says "I live at the office" and means it, is really someone I would not want checking code into my project. To be blunt, there is no way you can do quality work if you do not give your brain a break. Since the 1940's people have been studying the quality of work people are capable of without the proper sleep, change in environment, and exercise. There are reasons why even back during Apollo moon missions they forced the astronauts to sleep and not run on adrenaline. So working at Microsoft does not push the limits like this--it is not good for you, not good for business, and not good for the customers paying you for your software. If a company is driving you to work crazy hours like this, either because you want to or they want you to, it is just uncool."
> In other words, no matter how many hours you are officially supposed to work when you are new you will put in a lot more to get those projects done. That is ok. No, that is expected because you are going through the learning phase. Your learning is not happening on a practice field but is happing in the big show. So the extra hours and effort are worth it to you and the team.
> Microsoft will feel a lot like college in terms of the hours you put in and the environment you work in. It will be fun. It will mean late nights. It will mean "hanging out". All of those same things. That was my experience and when I look around I see the same thing happening now.
Even though your excerpt makes what I would call a more correct point, I still think the above is uncool. Reading it several years ago put me off severely and coming back to it I still think he was wrong to put it that way, even if he partially redeems himself later. I read it as "it's OK and good for low-paid college grads to overwork themselves, but later you won't want to do that."
And the new head is a PM..heading windows engineering.
More on Julie from Mary Jo:
"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.""
Looks like the beginning of the end to me.
On a conspiracy note, is Ballmer kicking out all his potential competitors?
That has most certainly not been my experience with Microsoft PMs when I lived in Seattle. There were more than a few who had zero experience writing code in-industry, and many who I wouldn't trust with a product at all.
There are bad apples in every bunch. The reason MSFT has so many PMs is not that they are under-competent; I suspect it has a lot more to do with the fact that it is a large organization that is often unable to silo teams from each other effectively.
Nonetheless, I still stand by point. I was an SDE at msft in OSD, so I know very well how technically competent PMs are and how much code they write.
I'm certain any PM in devdiv for example would be a great coder.
It may be that it just caught up with him. Or maybe he got too antsy for the CEO role.
Ballmer has lost almost all of his original group of Presidents (I believe Qi Lu is the only survivor). If the board is worth anything, they have to be real pissed at him- all potential successors have now left the company. Microsoft's politics are legendary and Sinofsky was seen as one of the few who could navigate them, now he's out.
I wouldn't be surprised if the board of directors had some extremely harsh words for Ballmer.
If Sinofsky worked (successfully) somewhere else for a few years it should make him a stronger choice as CEO.
* IE 3/4
...Windows is doomed.
Dear lord. This sounds like something from Office Space. What exactly is the kind of "team player" the company is looking for?
One time in a prior company, an important database/server was under my team's responsibility. Another team needed processing power and asked to borrow some capacity before they ordered their own hardware. Being a team player I agreed since it's good for the company. But over time their processing had huge impact on my tasks and caused performance problems. When I asked them to migrate out, it's always a low priority item, for whatever reason, budget, schedule, or whatever excuses. It took a year to kick them out. I got so fed up that I've contemplated to set up firewall rule to deny access from their machines.
Did people remember I being a team player and helped the other team and the company overall? No, they remembered my server was failing SLA due to poor performance since it's under my responsibility.
Screwed if you do, and screwed if you don't.
Generally happens in companies where people don't have what it takes to own things up. Keep shifting blame on people until they take responsibility, take credit for wins. But when there is a failure conveniently announce if wasn't your responsibility at the first place. And if they don't take responsibility name them as bad team players.
The game is set to use you and throw you. You can only lose in such a game.
Now I know absolutely nothing about internal MS politics. My immediate suspicion, based on how MS seems to operate, is that's code for "won't bow down to Windows/Office".
I really hope that's not the reason. There have been so many times Microsoft seems to be unable to get out of its own way because they have integrate Windows/Office into something somehow. Maybe he was part of that problem, but the fact us was involved in Windows 8 makes me doubt it since they were willing to make radical changes (good or bad).
If I had to guess, I'd put money on the lukewarm Surface reception being a final straw. The timing seems too perfect.
The article is suggesting that Sinofsky is the kind of person who did not, and that a less contentious person could have done an equally good job without alienating other senior leadership.
I read his blog posts on their website and always thought he was technical and bearer of change.
Similarly, not all change is good change.
Organizational changes in the Windows org increased fan-out and forced managers to take up additional roles, and also decreased leadership opportunities in the org. The changes were in theory supposed to be better for the leaf contributor (now you're only X steps from CEO!), but in reality, having opportunities for growth is probably much more important than having two fewer people between you and the top.
What a silly antiquated notion. You want a promotion? Start a company. Poof: You're CEO. Just like that. The only growth going on in an organization which uses titles and head counts to signify career progress is a cancerous growth.
Sinofski's approach to organizational design pissed off underperforming people at the top and talented people at the bottom. As a (I'd like to think) talented employee, I quit. As an investor, I'd have backed a Sinofski run Microsoft. His model kept middle tier people making middle tier products. That's what Microsoft has become and it's going to be far easier and more successful to embrace than, than it would be to try to please everybody.
I much prefer the single BOTL (Butt on the line), with every meeting having a single decision maker.
He was also one to dictate things from up above and it was extremely difficult to understand the reasoning behind them or offer any form of disagreement. Anyone who didn't follow exactly what he wanted, was out.
So basically you'd have committees of 3's (Dev, Test, PM) filtering and relaying every decision. The people who could work the politics would get promoted and the people who understood the details would get frustrated by the top-down ambiguity and falter or leave.
Did you guys call him Signoffsky? :p
For individuals though, it makes the utterly limiting environment, where gatekeepers and not the ones with merit flourish.
On the bright side, my unscientific observation is that, in the best case, such an organization can go on like this only for one career time (~20 years). So, if you are coming in towards the end of that period, you are in for an adventurous ride.
The hardware seems solid (I finally tried one tonight with both covers), but popping into the Desktop ruins the experience for people who only want Metro. (Me, I want full Win 8, so it matters a bit less to me... but breaking the Metro experience is still jarring.)
OTOH, although I've heard of Metro app numbers increasing, there's clearly a lonnnng way yet to go for it.
If all this is being pinned on Sinofsky, it's very short-sighted on Ballmer's part. With the legacy restrictions he had to deal with, I think Sinfosky did a very good job for a 1.0 product and the promise is there.
I thought he would replace Balmer eventually.
Sinofsky was just too popular? Ballmer's CEO position is not sacrosanct. Some internal guy being a prominent public figure is the biggest risk for him i guess.
Now it appears they both lost.
As Steve Jobs has said: “Somewhere between the janitor and the CEO, reasons stop mattering.”
However, if it worked, Ubuntu could take over Windows for the enterprise in only a few years. Now is the time to strike while the iron is hot.
Of course, they couldn't pay him all that much but the upside is tremendous.
He states that it was a personal decision to leave now, disputing the rumors that he was fired. Although offcourse that doesn't mean he wasn't being pushed.
Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/meet-the-next-ceo-of-microsof...
As a low level peon, I respected how he could get the org to ship on time. I think he'll be missed.
Being smart and nice will get you further than just being smart.
I have absolutely no perspective on this issue and often wonder what it's like.
(As an aside, the reciprocal "good job" messaging is irrelevant - quitting in style is professional courtesy, costs nothing, and leaves bridges in place and doors open.)
In particular at Microsoft (drawing from discussions with friends), one common theme I gathered is "complex". Life at Microsoft is complex, rich in context, structured, full of details that employees consider important but find it very difficult to explain to the uninitiated. Even the vocabulary has additions and some words have unusually stronger semantics. I have friends who have been enormously stressed, lost sleep, literally developed clinical cases of depression - on stakes that, when explained to an outsider, appear as immensely petty. This is twice as bizarre in an industry that has a high inflation of jobs, which makes it very easy to leave Microsoft. But that's difficult because the nature of these conflicts and challenges makes the employees who are part of them feel they're losing self worth if they quit.
So I could speculate that leaving Microsoft has Sinofsky experience the most complex of emotions. However, it's likely he'll rebound and be off to other conquests soon.
In the case of Microsoft, this phenomena may be more pronounced. Software engineers/developers exist in a smaller subset of society than many other professions, and the compounded relative geographic isolation in Washington may make it difficult to see the forest through the trees during times of professional conflict. This is not to say that Seattle is by any means isolated, but the tech community there is indeed smaller than that of Silicon Valley, magnifying the overall degree of professional isolation.
As others have noted departures at this level are always much more nuanced than simply "this was bad" or "this was good." None of the departures where I was pretty close to the departee and the situation were 'unexpected' in the sense that their course had a way point which usually pointed 'up' or 'out'.
So think about your own career, think about what you want to do, what mark you want to make on the world, what things are you passionate about. Sometimes a company changes direction, from market forces or personnel changes and the company and the individual become less aligned. Its always possible to see if you can bring the company back toward alignment, it's also possible to see the cost or probability of that happening.
In my own experience I was a VP level technical contributor at a company during the dot.com boom. I arrived as part of an acquisition which was pushed by the CTO of that company who had a vision for a richer services oriented IP connectivity solution for multi-tenant buildings. A series of missteps, some poor 'chemistry' between the executive team, and a general collapse of the DSL market, made it clear that even though I had an employment contract with these folks, the place they were going (back to their 'roots' as a wiring solution) wasn't a place I would find very interesting. I talked with the CEO, we looked at all the options, and both agreed that the 'right' answer was going to be for me to leave. That didn't particularly bother me, because the parting wasn't really a reflection on my ability or non-ability, things had changed I had a choice, I chose not to follow that change.
Contrasting that for when I left Sun (certainly not as senior level as that) where I had poured a lot of energy into the product that would become Java with visions of building really strong capability based systems and light weight task specific operating systems, only to realize that Sun 'corporate' had decided that Java was the battering ram to try and deflect the Microsoft Juggernaut of Windows/NT and a growing Enterprise presence. I was really pissed off. I talked to Scott about it, Eric Schmidt (CTO at the time), and James Gosling. To their credit everyone was very supportive of my passion but in the end the company gets to decide what they are going to do with your work product, and I could not get Sun Labs to sponsor my secure version of Java and while I felt e-commerce was going to define the killer App, realistically in 1995 I was about 7 years too early to that particular party. So, just about 3 months shy of getting my 10 year pin/clock/whatever I stormed out. Emotionally I felt pretty liberated, feeling like Sun was too clueless trying to protect their enterprise accounts to see the low hanging fruit right above them.
The only place I have felt truly bad about leaving was Google, not because I was leaving, it was clear to me that Google and I had incompatible goals, but because I felt like I had failed the folks who were fighting the good fight and I left them there to suffer. The path to success there was pretty clearly laid out for those who looked for it, but the cost for me was high, too high.
Its really great of you to stand up to what you believe and go that way. I think that's the reason why you are the VP of blekko now.
Any advice to young folks like us, who dream to make it big some day?
P.S: Read your HN profile just today, although i've been reading your comments and replying to them for a while on HN. But that's the beauty of HN isn't it?
I am a firm believer though in three fairly general things; follow your passion so that you don't find yourself regretting today what you didn't do yesterday, seek out contrary views to help you understand your own ideas, and choose not to take things personally. Doing that won't necessarily make you popular or successful but they will let you stay centered and happy with yourself.
However, it was a company and there were people who put in effort day in and day out that kept things working, people that were indispensable to day to day operations of the company, who were not getting the recognition that folks who would create a solution to a problem nobody had were getting. These unheralded people were 'fighting the good fight' and I worked pretty hard to wake up HR to that oversight on their part. They had just started giving out 'infrastructure awards' as a way of recognizing those folks when I was leaving. I was glad for that. I didn't get a chance to work on one of the committees that evaluated that sort of work which was too bad. Given the changes I've read about since I left it would seem that the company has shifted away from some of that stuff.
To give you an example of how sad a case I was, when I came to the Bay Area I had offers from Xerox and Intel and was totally excited to go work at Intel because they were shipping the products that were changing the world. My wife worked at Xerox and so I got to see a company that could envision an amazing future, and not ship it, and even then I knew it would drive me insane not to get things out the door :-).
I'm personally curious where General David Petraeus ends up.
> Sources have said the move came amid growing
> tension between Sinofsky and other top executives.
> Sinofsky, though seen as highly talented, was
> viewed at the top levels as not the kind of team
> player that the company was looking for...
> In a press release, Ballmer praised Steven’s work,
> but also talked about a need for “more integrated
> and rapid development cycles for our offerings.”
Each of these are viable:
- Run a medium sized software firm.
- Run a large division of a major tech firm. (For example: Software at HP)
- Start up something that would have been impossible in Microsoft's hierarchy. No need for outside angels.
- Become a hands on VC.
- Teach computer science and business.
- Run around the world for a year while figuring things out.
It has to be tough emotionally, but there are many options for talents like this.
I would guess most of the time, the answer is "no". Forget the circumstances, human beings have a tendency to look for failings in others to explain their own misfortune. It can be difficult to look past your own hubris to recognize what are in truth your own failings.
So, it's really going to come down to the individual- but I would default to "no".
Now, I've never heard of this guy until now, but I wouldn't be so quick to assume he's unable to evaluate himself.
Based on what evidence do you say this? Not trolling, really curious. I seem to recall (but don't have references on hand, so fell free to discard this) that people tend to be WORSE at honest self-evaluation the greater their success. They tend to get wrapped up in their own 'press' and surrounded by people constantly telling them how awesome they are, how much smarter than everyone else, etc..
Compare: "Product A was terrible and we are embarrassed to have released it" vs "Product A was a good start and proved that there's a market, and we've learned a lot that's going to get you really excited for Product B."
One last thing that I'm adding after posting this is that I also don't think this means successful people don't succumb to feelings of anger, hurt pride, revenge fantansies and all the other normal human stuff. Just that eventually you get past that and learn from it.
Surface / WindowsRT / Windows8 = "big failure".
Not so long ago , he was seen as the next Microsoft boss , but firing him wont solve Microsoft problems , Ballmer is the problem.