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Steven Sinofsky to Leave Microsoft (allthingsd.com)
357 points by gabbo on Nov 13, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 221 comments

This is a stunning development and most of MSFT is probably in shock right now.

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.

He was always polarizing and that his stock was rising is equally contentious, IMO. Windows 8 was late, Surface seems to be underwhelming and his inability to be a real team player are all likely factors here, as is his rumored disagreement with Ballmer (though I had Ballmer on the losing end of that one).

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.

He was always polarizing and that his stock was rising is equally contentious, IMO. Windows 8 was late, Surface seems to be underwhelming and his inability to be a real team player are all likely factors here, as is his rumored disagreement with Ballmer (though I had Ballmer on the losing end of that one).

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.

Don't forget that Sinofsky was that guy that convinced BillG that the web/internet was the way forward rather than the closed proprietary AOL-like MSN of the time with his "Cornell is WIRED!" email/memo: http://www.cornell.edu/about/wired/

It must take a pretty bold conviction to think you are right and Bill Gates is wrong. I could trust how saying he's hard to work under would be legitimate.

Could be hard for someone like that to take advice from engineers below him who have half or less the experience.

Then half of the Internet has pretty bold convictions.

Seems early to deem Surface a failure.

But I said it was underwhelming. Underwhelming != failure.

Even as a Mac only guy, I don't see how Surface is thought to be underwhelming. I think the tablet gestures they have, especially using the edges, are steps beyond the iPad and iOS and I expect Apple to copy them at some point in time. And then the actual interface is pretty nice as well: distinct, clean, beautiful. Again, I wouldn't be surprised to see Apple riffing on them.

How do you hype a product, and release the lesser of the two variants (RT vs Pro)? How do you go months without announcing a price, and then don't price it competitively? How do you release a product where your flagship apps (Office suite) doesn't run in the new paradigm? How do you not have a working email client? Need more...?

I think the gestures are cool, and in a world where everyone was really into "neat" interfaces it'd be the way to go. They score particularly high on efficiency.

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 your vision is wrong because you criticize traditional idea of hiding power features and exposition of basic, but Microsoft did opposite. They exposed power features (see Ribbon) and hid basic. Every user will learn gestures because this is the only way to call Start screen with mouse and without it there is nothing to do. Beginners will search internet with "How to shutdown Windows 8" and will find about settings charm this way. Many will hate Windows 8 but in the end everybody will learn.

I think you're forgetting about Windows 7. As long as that's "good enough", there's no reason to switch to Windows 8 for the average user - especially if the new UX is confusing. Heck, there are still tons of Windows XP installs out there for this very reason.

> But designers tend to drastically underestimate discoverabity, particularly discoverabity by novice users.

I think you either missed "the importance of" or meant "overestimate".

That is all solved by the fact that it's a touch based device.

It's that hardware feature that stands for 95% of the usability of the device.

I like it as a product to disrupt the market. I think the product itself is incredibly underwhelming and would agree with psychotik.

Ok you both said underwhelming, but I'm curious in what ways you think so?

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).

I think you're grading the product on a curve, relative to expectations of what Microsoft could produce in a few years, starting from scratch.

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.)

What does that friend want to use the tablet for? Anandtech found the screen on the Surface to be superior for watching video, despite its lower resolution. Does the friend want to share his tablet with other people in his household? The multi-user support in Windows RT is obviously superior to the complete lack of such functionality in iOS. Does the friend need to occasionally edit Office documents?

I don't think there's an obvious answer to which tablet provides more value - it's very context-specific.

Well, I don't know about that. I pretty much recommend Windows 7 computers to people because I expect they can buy one and get it to work for their definition of work. I might think a Mac or Linux would be better for them for what they want to do, but not for their ability to actually do it.

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.

Tablets are all about the screen, as you pointed out. The Surface is at least one model behind and is playing catch-up here.

RIM's playbook had edge gestures - no one has copied them yet (maybe Microsoft has).

I don't get this point. Windows 8 is probably the most connected windows ever. The store, Skydrive ads, all are driven by services behind the OS. I don't think that Sinofsky opposed or didn't get services.

And Windows 7 had none of the services that it should. It's 2012, don't you think it's a bit late already?

Wasn't Windows Vista beyond bad at the time? Windows 7's mission was to retrofit that. Adding more features (cloud, services, whatever) would have delayed the fix to the damages caused by Vista. He's probably more focused in delivering a solution fast then. On that he had succeeded. The lack of services in Win7 was more of a fault of the guy(s) causing the Vista fiasco in the first place.

Vista wasn't a fiasco. It was a rushed, focused, and pragmatic fix to the fiasco that was Longhorn. Don't remember Windows Longhorn? That's because Vista was a success.

Windows Longhorn was the internal codename for Vista. I think that you are thinking of Windows 7 being rushed, focused, and pragmatic fix to the fiasco that was Vista.


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.

Longhorn wasn't the codename for Vista - that was a lie we told to cover the truth :) Longhorn was a massively ambitious upgrade to Windows XP that had a whole new relational DB file system (WinFS), managed memory graphics stack comparable to Flash (Avalon), and abstracted network layer (Indigo). The project didn't converge.

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.

Fair enough, if you have inside knowledge I'm happy to be corrected.

On a side note: Do you think the Wikipedia article is accurate?

The Longhorn reboot is well documented and widely known.

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.

Trivia. Longhorn was supposedly a completely new architecture. The filesystem was supposed to be SQL Server based plus other architectual astronautery. It was an executive dreamed clusterfuck with no technical merit. Quite similar to IBM's Workplace project, which also never came to fruition.

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.

> 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.

Most mega corps never recover from fuckups of this sort. Microsoft thus far has kept pulling them out of the hat.

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.

>XP released in 2001; Vista released in 2007, essentially an updated XP with some Aero bells and PMP whistles.

What? No.

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."

> Windows Longhorn was the internal codename for Vista

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.

Vista is what was salvaged from Longhorn.

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.

Hey no worries - it's basically just war stories now. :) You're right that publicly MS said Longhorn was the codename for Vista, even though that's kind of stretching the truth.

Sorry if I gave offence. We seem to be agreeing now anyway.

No worries SideburnsOfDoom, I'm sure it wasn't deliberate.

p.s.: your handle made me smile!

Probably because Microsoft was deathly afraid of being accused of "bundling".

This mirrors my experience with MS. The DOJ case had long-lived and wide-ranging effects.

I had a similar experience during my time at MS.

A bit late for what? Out of the major OS's MS is the largest, I'm writing this on a mac, and would loathe to have to use a PC but you have to appreciate that for most consumers when MS delivers something it is right on time.

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.

Also, he and SteveB were supposed to be on good terms.

In 2009, Microsoft had 5 Presidents- Sinofsky, Stephen Elop, Robbie Bach, Qi Lu and Bob Muglia. All but Qi Lu are now gone.

Not a good sign of Ballmer's ability to choose leaders.

Here's Ballmer's letter about Sinofsky's departure: http://www.theverge.com/2012/11/12/3638174/steve-ballmers-le...


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-...

I don't have strong opinions on any of this, but that letter really reads weirdly. It has an almost-no-transition set of segues between "congrats for all the work you've done recently", "Sinofsky is leaving", and "so here is who's in charge now", with a conspicuous lack of explanation or connection between those points.

Welcome to corporate damage control 101.

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."

Thanks for pointing us to that link. I was surprised & pleased to learn that two women were promoted as a result of Sinofsky's departure: Julie Larson-Green and Tami Reller. Good for them, and all of us who enjoy seeing a little more gender balance.

Any MSFT'ers here who can comment on their backgrounds?

Julie Larson-Green brought the Ribbon interface to Office and then to other parts of Windows. Her ability to bring change to something as stable as the Office UI and the Windows Explorer UI was seen as a good thing.

By the way, downvoting instead of writing some counter-argument is not cool.

Anyone else had to pause when reading that line in the letter?

Julie has been a stalwart leader of building compelling “experiences” from her time on Internet Explorer

Well, one definition of "compelling" is "demanding attention". Any web developer that's had to build for Internet Explorer will likely say that's a fairly accurate description.


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?

I think it's explicitlydrawing the reader's attention to the fact that the author is using the term in a way other than it's common meaning. To be pedantic I think the quotes are unnecessary grandstanding, if you believe in the term then just use it, but whatever.

IE 3 and 4 were very well received in their own time. Its only IE 6 that overstayed its welcome.

And 7 and 8. 9 and 10 are still strutting around non-standard implementations of half of everything require custom code work-arounds. They still don't have full html5 / css3 support either.

How do you fully support a mostly still-moving spec? Also what large points are missing now in IE 10 except for WebGL?

Why do you only ask about "large points"? If you implement 'most of CSS, except for minute details', then you haven't implemented CSS, and web developers suffer because they have to add UA-specific hacks for your implementation.

To answer the first question: The first step would probably be releasing more often than once every 1.5 years.

Unfortunately, MS considers IE a Windows component, so MS supports all versions of IE that was ever released on a version of Windows for the life of that Windows version, which is a minimum of ten years total for each version.

And of course, we can expect that Ballmer will still be around...

There were a lot of good choices out there around the W7 timeframe. I can't really imagine the decision-making criteria, but I suspect it was a tough choice.

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.

I'm curious about what 'Sinofsky-ization of teams' means. could you elaborate?

"This is a unexpected move which is going to change Microsoft at a deep level."

Agreed, although not to the level of Sinofsky, Larsen-Green is pretty darn awesome in her own right. At least that is my opinion.

Can you tell us more about Larsen-Green? Can she deliver?

Hmm. I don't know if she is up to the level of Sinofsky but my comment was based upon the fact that everyone I knew that worked for her held in considerable respect and that is a rare thing within MS.

Typical Microsoft of late. Apple makes a tablet, then Microsoft makes a tablet. Apple fires some executives, then Microsoft fires some executives.

I know you're being silly.. but reality is messier than that. Apple released a tablet in 1993. Microsoft released serious tablets in 2002. Apple again in 2010, and now MS with their own branded device. Reality is less about leading a trend than hopscotching the competitor.

Slight correction and additional facts: The Newton was not a tablet. Nobody referred to it as a tablet at that time and nobody categorizes it as one now. The Psion Series 3 PDA arrived on the market before the Newton in 1991, and had a sizable user base by 1992.

Right, it was a Personal Digital Assistant -- the emphasis was on handwriting recognition; much of the Newton's pop-culture legacy is how ceaseless the lampooning of this features' flaws were at the time (regarding which, I had a MessagePad 130 and it was all more or less true).

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...

Following your line of thought SteveB should die next year.

Note to you: you're discussing real people.

Courier : J Allard :: Surface : Sinofsky

Both of them equally sad departures. The latter more so.

Courier didn't cause J's departure and neither did Surface SteveSi's. Besides, Surface has been out for a week.

... and before anyone quotes that the Surface sold "modestly", please cite the source because the original article making rounds this morning was corrected since the quote was taken out of context.

Allard WAS Courier. Saying it didn't cause his departure is like saying that the dealer hitting 21 doesn't cause you to go over: arguably true but besides the point. Allard bet big and lost -- a sad loss in my opinion but a losing bet regardless.

And Ballmer has already decided to say the "sales were modest". Maybe he already knew why Sinofsky will soon leave.

He did not. He said that Microsoft's approach to sale was modest. Then misquoting and English-to-French-to-English translation did their jobs.

Official statement:

>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 did work in a Sinofsky org. I was an individual contributor and didn't have a flashy title. What I saw was a man that maintained a sizable gap between reputation/rhetoric and reality. The man who supposedly cleaned up Windows did so largely by taking credit for the work of COSD, which he didn't run. For all he would amusedly repeat the phrase "don't ship the org chart", we pretty much ... shipped the org chart. During the big re-org he seemed very precise about getting a fixed number of reports on each team and having a constant tree height in all parts of the org chart, but during the (overly long) planning phase and during development he never seems to have asked the right questions of the folks doing the Modern UI or WinRT, such as "dude, what the fuck are you building?", or "does this shit make sense?" He empowered what is in the end a very dopey PM organization. He and his people would also veto stuff if it depended on non-Sinofsky divisions. He was also a staunch advocate of not doing things right the first time, and letting it become someone else's problem in a future release.

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.

You are exactly wrong on what Sinofsky said about work/life balance.

From http://blogs.msdn.com/b/techtalk/archive/2005/11/16/493549.a...

"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."

It's been some years since I read it so perhaps my memory is hazy. This is the part I found most objectionable:

> 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.

Then later:

> 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."

My understanding is that Sinofsky was just purging many partner-level folks. I'd be curious if that created a chorus of dissatisfaction, but I'd never heard of anything that would have caused his ouster.

That was my understanding as well. There are an absurd number of incompetent partner-level folks. It seemed that MAXIMIZE(TIME + BROWN_NOSING - CAREER_LIMITING_GAFFES) was an extremely successful strategy for getting promoted.


This is really really sad. Everyone must be very disappointed (Especially mini-microsoft).

And the new head is a PM..heading windows engineering.

More on Julie from Mary Jo:

[1]"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?

The PM role is not at all about finance or marketing. PMs at Microsoft are expected to be technically competent and depending where they're stationed, may regularly contribute code. Julie Larson-Green is noted for her expertise in UI/UX. If anything, this exemplifies a shift to focusing on the end-user.

> "PMs at Microsoft are expected to be technically competent"

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.

My experiences with PMs were universally good; these are people who would look at ideas in-the-baking and find ways to improve them, run interference for a number of projects, put together decision-guiding research, and generally somehow manage to bring things together.

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.

As a former PM, I can confirm that many of them are not technically competent. I would say a good number of my colleagues did not have the engineering rigor to get a good mark in any CS class with a heavy engineering/programming component.

Sorry, confused Julie's bio with Tammy Reller's. She has an MBA and has indeed been leading the UI/UX efforts.

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.

So your experience in OSD translates across a company of 90k+ people? Seems legit. I have met some PMs that probably couldn't write a line of shipping code too, I have also met some highly competent ones. I guess, like all things involving large numbers, there is a distribution, not all fall in the tail.

Certainly not the whole company but to the person in question.

I'm certain any PM in devdiv for example would be a great coder.

Hah, as a former OSD PM, I found the opposite true. Everyone's experience at Microsoft can be really different though; the company is huge and each division itself is enormous.

There's technically competent and then there's 'can sustain working as a developer for an indefinite length of time.' Some people are just not a good fit for being a developer. The worst though are people that have given it up but still try to maintain the cred.

All I can do is echo potatolicious (for the second time today).

Up until now, the prevailing theory had been that Sinofsky was kicking out all of his competitors. My understanding is that Bob Muglia left because of direct conflict with Sinofsky and Robbie Bach seemed to be on the loosing end of a few Sinofsky scuffles.

It may be that it just caught up with him. Or maybe he got too antsy for the CEO role.

Also- this looks incredibly bad for Ballmer. Sinofsky was at Microsoft his entire career and was head of Office before Windows. You don't promote someone like that without knowing what they'll manage like.

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.

It would do Microsoft a lot of good if the replacement for Ballmer wasn't a "lifer" at Microsoft.

If Sinofsky worked (successfully) somewhere else for a few years it should make him a stronger choice as CEO.

Sinofsky started his career as an SDE but was mainly a PM. That's how he got where he did.

* Visual C++

* IE 3/4

* FrontPage

...Windows is doomed.

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.

Dear lord. This sounds like something from Office Space. What exactly is the kind of "team player" the company is looking for?

I don't know. I found out the hard way that being too good a "team player" will hurt you. People would just shove work to you or to your team. Or take resources from you in the guise of good for the team.

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.

>>Did people remember I being a team player and helped the other team and the company overall?

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.

renice 15 `pgrep other_team_process`

A puppet who bends to Ballmer's whims. I wish I was joking. Every indication is that he can't handle anyone in a position of power that puts up any resistance to him.

Do you work at Microsoft?

I used to.

Sounds like a PC way of saying that he was not a team player.

I wonder what "team player" means here.

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.

I really doubt "won't bow down to windows/office" is the problem here, saying as Sinofsky was head of windows. A more likely interpretation is that he expected other teams to bow to windows.

Team Player in this sense probably means something along the lines of, 'plays well with others'.

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.

An article at The Verge[1] suggests your right. In fact, that article suggests that he may have been fired earlier if things hadn't gone as well as they had during the Windows 8 and Surface launches.

[1] http://www.theverge.com/2012/11/12/3638340/microsoft-steven-...

Good riddance. I left the company because I didn't want to deal with his idea of an ideal organization. I figured he was a shoe-in for CEO and it was just time until everyone was under him. Unfortunately I think he leaves a large trail behind him- too many lower-level people saw no chance to escape his way of doing things other than to leave the company.

Could you please elaborate on why you did not agree with him on his organization plans?

I read his blog posts on their website and always thought he was technical and bearer of change.

There are a great many people in the world who are technical and generally disagreeable.

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.

> 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.

What was his idea of an ideal organization?

I can't be positive what the parent post was referring to, but it's likely it has something to do with re-balancing the dev/test/pm/manager roles. Microsoft had started to get top heavy, so Sinofski had a lot of managers demoted to individual contributors and invented this odd "triad" system of dev/test/pm to try to keep things more balanced. It struck me as a passive aggressive and politically correct way to force some under-performers out. It had the positive side effect of preventing runaway PM orgs, but had the negative side effect of encumbering some well balanced teams. I assumed that it was an interrum strategy to get a handle on organizational complexity. However, other orgs around the company started being "Sinofski-ized" without any real understanding of what that meant.

Precisely. From what I experienced, everything became decision by committee with the triads.

I much prefer the single BOTL (Butt on the line), with every meeting having a single decision maker.

He was a big fan of the triad- Dev, Test & PM, at every level. From what I experienced, at every level you'd have to get sign-off from all 3 for any features to be implemented. That, combined with Microsoft's incredibly deep org structure created a massive number of 'committees' to go through to get signoff for any work to be done.

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.

"...you'd have to get sign-off from all 3 for any features to be implemented." "...created a massive number of 'committees' to go through to get signoff for any work to be done."

Did you guys call him Signoffsky? :p

A friend of mine (another ex-softie) described the genius of modern day Microsoft to be taking C players and reliably producing a B product. The triad model seemed to fit right in line with that ideal.

Definition of a BigCo ...

IMO the sign-off culture would be a problem at MS with or without triads. When you have such a large middle-layer (especially ones with ranks like 'partner' who seem to mostly be faking it) there are going to be loads of people whose chief role is to be a gatekeeper who needs to 'sign-off' on something. There are going to be layers of management who want to perform that filtering and relaying you mention, even though it does nothing for the company. And until some kind of purging happens, that won't change.

Honestly it wasn't so bad. PM's with vision and proof could force their will, devs with talent and credibility could dictate the approach, and testers with open eyes could hold the team to their commitments. It's ok to specialize and lean on your partners.

Microsoft was all about this while I was there. It was incredible how much permission you needed to do anything. When I left I found an almost uniform response from other ex-MSFT employees that they "just couldn't get shit done" while there.

This is probably how things work in most big old software corporations. It is not open to big surprises, like a revolutionary new product, or a catastrophic failure. If the company is on a profitable turf, I would say, it is the way to go.

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.

Surface RT selling modestly due to limited distribution and poor reviews for RT itself.

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.

From what I understand, Surface RT has been completely sold out for a week or two now at all the Microsoft stores. Not sure what that means though...

>Surface RT selling modestly due to limited distribution

[citation needed]

CNET did an excellent write up on Sinofsky just last month http://news.cnet.com/8301-10805_3-57536905-75/steven-sinofsk...

I worked for Microsoft for 4 years - this is a HUGE surprise to me. Most of the people I know who worked in his orgs were proud to work under his direction.

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.

A few guys from minimsft suggested that Ballmer picked someone else for CEO and that's why Sinfosky left.

Interesting. Sinofsky was, along with J Allard, supposed to be one of the product visionaries capable of filling the gap Gates left. When Allard left, and Microsoft put its weight behind the "unified Windows" approach instead of the Courier concept, it was thought that Sinofsky "won".

Now it appears they both lost.

No one ever considered Sinofsky a product visionary. He just picked people he trusted. J is another story.

I wish J Allard returns..

I always thought that Sinofsky was a driving force behind some of the changes that preceded Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. This comes as a great surprise to me and I hesitate to think who would be in a good position to follow him (and ultimately who would fill Ballmer's shoes in the company).

One of the comments in the linked article suggests that this could mean that the surface is selling much worse as expected. There might be some truth in this.

As Steve Jobs has said: “Somewhere between the janitor and the CEO, reasons stop mattering.”

Or selling too well and causing the Microsoft partners to make some noise.

Is this related to some reactions regarding Windows 8? Or simply some internal issues between Sinofsky and other execs?

Ballmer sent out an internal email about that but the company employees don't know why either.

Canonical should grab him for Ubuntu. Even if he was only there for a year, it would be a great transition for him. If things didn't work out, he could always just say the company wasn't ready for him.

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.

Here's Sinofsky's letter to employees on his departure http://winsupersite.com/windows-8/windows-leadership-changes...

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.

come on , that's always personal ... that's called PR ! dont you think he has a contract that forces him to keep his mouth shut ?

"Nobody wants to be dubbed the future king while the current king is still on the throne. It’s the quickest way to the dungeon."

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/meet-the-next-ceo-of-microsof...

This is quite a surprise. As someone who worked on Windows for five years after undergrad and catching the tail end of Vista, people were thrilled when he was brought on board for Windows 7.

As a low level peon, I respected how he could get the org to ship on time. I think he'll be missed.

I am not sure what that means at the moment but he was a strong man in the company so that he even prevented Xbox and Windows Phone divisions to develop an OS other than Windows. He was also being called as the next CEO of the company. I am not sure if that has anything to do with Win8. He was working at the company since 1989. (I was born in that year)

Ballmer reminds of Stalin - remove the smart guys around you, so he does not feel threatened. Okay, that's quite an overstatement, but it feels that way to me.

Along with the departure of Ray Ozzie (thank goodness!), this actually makes Cringely's suggestion -- http://www.cringely.com/2012/10/28/steve-ballmers-dilemma/ tl;dr that Microsoft simply milk its cash cow for as long as it can and then turn into an investment fund -- seem like it may actually happen.

That would be a very good option for the ppl holding MS shares, but can do insane amount of damage to the IT industry - monetizing all those patents without fear of losing reputation among developers, students, etc. and without having to worry about new products being affected by other people patents. Team up with the super-corrupted music/movie/TV industry to make non-DRM devices and OSes illegal by bribing politicians.

I'm not clear how this would do any damage that MS won't do as part of pursuing some other course. Does anyone doubt that they're going to milk their cash cows while pursuing (say) the mobile market?

Patents have bad reputation with the tech community, which means that if now MS presses hard Linux and other products it will have trouble hiring good devs later. But if they just support and milk their existing products they don't need good devs so much.

I can't help but wonder if Forstall (Apple) and Sinofsky (MS) are two men who would have been strong, maybe even visionary leaders had they been allowed to reach the position of CEO at either company. I tend to feel that Jobs only made CEO because he had also been founder and ex-CEO, and had a certain cachet from that.

Pretty difficult to be the CEO of a tech company without founding it.

I hope this means that they start doing more .NET again, instead of going back to COM.

I hope so as well, the WinRT API is stripped bare. I was shocked to see how much of .NET's functionality they didn't port over to WinRT.

I'll agree that WinRT is not complete, but that's hardly COM's fault. The real story is that they thought they could replace decades of development platform evolution in a 3 year development cycle. And even in that 3 years, they didn't think things through very well, or make many attempts to learn from history. With that I would disagree that it's a good/bad, .NET/COM axis. Many programmers are productive with Win32 and COM in ways that they are not with WinRT.

"Andy Rubin is sweating right now." — @llsethj

I don't really get the joke. Care to explain? :)

Forstall and Sinofsky were both running the OS for Apple and MSFT, respectively. Andy Rubin runs Android at Google.

Sounds like Rubin is in a very good position to renegotiate his contract.

Lots of people see a similarity between Sinofsky leaving and Forstall's recent exit from Apple (and a similarity between their positions and that of Rubin). Just a silly joke, though.

They should team up and do something great

Reading between the lines here - for him to be fired, it must indicate that signs are pointing that Win 8 will be a dud release, similar to Vista. Sigh.

Vista wasn't a dud. It was mostly seen as a failure because a lot of incompatible software (mainly POORLY written software, but MS is probably partly to blame for that), and a few UX changes that forced to people to be a little more responsible (UAC).

And the honcho who got fired over the Vista catastrophe waltzed into a SVP job at Amazon.

I think the message here from Forstall and Sinofsky is no matter how talented you are, if you're a dick it will come back and bite you.

Being smart and nice will get you further than just being smart.

I predict the Start button will make a return.

I guess consumer pressure on Microsoft tech support after Win8 release is above any limits. Lack of Start button, no easy way to shutdown PC, full-screen interface with no way of knowning which app is active and without easy way to switch them - all of these ones combined make up a perfect techsupport disaster. I wonder how large is average return rate of Windows 8 devices?

If Sinofsky turns out to be in Cupertino tomorrow, then it would complete the recent drama.

If Forstall was let go for not getting along with others then I doubt Sinofsky will be spotted in Cupertino.

Scott Guthrie for CEO!!!!

I soo wish the firms would give out more than boilerplate in such cases. If only we knew the actual reason... Now we're forced to speculate.

If this means less or no more Metro in Windows 9, that seems like great news to me.

I can't believe Sinofsky was behind Metro. I expect more "Metro" now, not less.

its so sad. it's clear that nobody can save Microsoft from Ballmer now that the ONE guy that can actually execute is gone.

I know the reaction for Windows 8 and the Surface has been trepid but I would've thought he would have been safe given his pedigree within Microsoft.

Anyone think Microsoft will be announcing Scott Forstall joining the company next? Sort of like the Marissa Meyer announcement for Yahoo?

would be great !

Wait, Apple fired their top software guy and MSFT's top software guy leaves. Why does this sound like Sinofsky is heading to Apple?

I doubt if he will go to apple. He must be bound by non-compete agreements.

That just means a six month vacation. Plenty of folks bounce around between the big cos.

The Microsoft employment contract has a one year non-compete clause. Microsoft has shown that it is willing to enforce non-competes and it is easy to do so under Washington State law.

That's why you file in California.

could yahoo be on the cards? marissa meyer made the move recently.

because that would be the end of apple?

it's enough to extract one final post from minimsft http://minimsft.blogspot.com.au/2012/11/a-microsoft-without-...

I hate Microsoft. I hate politics. I hate Microsoft politics twice as much.

I was expecting Ballmer to be fired (for his last statement on Surface sales being modest) rather than Sinofsky. Maybe the sales are actually modest and Sinofsky is somehow responsible?

So I've always wondered what happens to you as a human when you're effectively fired from a high level, high visibility position. How does Sinofsky feel right now, emotionally? How does he feel professionally? Is this something someone shakes off as differences between opinionated guys in an organization? Or is this something that rocks him to his core? Does he go for another job right away? Or does he write a book and retire?

I have absolutely no perspective on this issue and often wonder what it's like.

I'm nowhere near that level but extrapolating from my experience and that of people I know: such abrupt departures are never amiable and are the tip of quite complex political junctures. As a human being, someone like Sinofsky is no longer hurt by lost income, but that's a blessing in disguise because his motivations were for a long time not of financial nature, which means he is hurting in other dimensions. Feelings such as hurt pride, poetic justice/revenge (they're worse off without me), rejection, are not uncommon. Given the abrupt departure, a general loss of meaning and occupation is quite likely (from the mornings of a busy executive to the long silence of the mornings to follow).

(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.

Some of the items you list are visible in cult victims too.

As an aside, I've noticed many of the factors and symptoms you note in members of any sufficiently large corporation. Perhaps in a microcosm of society, the frictions necessary to create psychological tension are amplified with respect to the size of the corporation and the degree of isolation.

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.

The tech community in Redmond/Bellevue is limited, but in Seattle overall its actually quite rich; and the young kids can commute east on a connector right?

My current CEO was fired as the CEO of prominent multi-billion dollar company. I don't think that it phased his ego at all. He just moved on to being the head of another large organization and was still just as outgoing, friendly and creative as ever. I think he just used the experience as something to learn from. This is all of course from my outside perspective and 10 or so years of working closely with him. I'm sure there was some feelings of betrayal and remorse for him, but that's a side that I've never seen come out.

Scott McNealy would occasionally send a note of congratulations on a promotion, typically he would say "One step up, one step closer to the door." That was of course figuratively true, and in the case of building 4 at Sun also literally true since the executive offices were right next to an employee entrance :-)

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.

Gripping read. Its really rare to read battle ground stories especially from people who have already 'been there' on the ground.

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?

Thanks for the compliments, I've found that advice tends to be situational and so hard to transfer generically.

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.

I'd be curious to read a little more about what happened at Google, why your goals were incompatible and what the “good fight” was.

Technology companies do 'R&D' which stands for Research and Development. You can think of that as a spectrum where on one end you have 100% research, the end goal is a published paper, and at the other end you have 100% development where the end goal is the implementation of a solution to a specific problem. All of the engineers I've met land somewhere on the spectrum in terms of what motivates them to do what they do. When I was at Google most of engineering was very 'research' focused, there were a lot of what you might think of as science projects, prototypes and experiments which might, or might not solve a problem. I'm more of a 'products' guy which puts me much closer to the D side of the spectrum. I know myself well enough to know I don't do well in places that lean heavily toward research, and so from that standpoint there was always an impedance mismatch between my values and those of the company.

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 :-).

Profound and honest post!

Assuming it wasn't for something genuinely disgraceful (Sandusky), a lot of people who are fired from high-profile competitive jobs at the apex of their career, if they don't go to a competitor, end up going into non-profits, government/academic advisory roles, or other less competitive positions.

I'm personally curious where General David Petraeus ends up.

What makes you think he was fired? He may not see Ballmer retiring anytime soon and decided to move on to something bigger and better.

The article suggests that he was "fired" in some way:

  > 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.”
Further, I think your parents' question still fits with a little bit of wrangling even if he wasn't fired. It would be interesting to know what it feels like to reach a very high rank at a company and then to step down.

Getting fired always sucks, but at that level it's not a career ender. He's beyond financially independent, has a broad view of the industry, and a lot of contacts.

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.

You dont get to this level without thick skin and a constant desire to climb the next mountain.

is this something that rocks him to his core

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".

Hmm, I'm not sure about that. It seems like successful people would be able to recognize their faults and mistakes. That whole maxim we sometimes talk about here where if you aren't failing a lot, you're not trying hard enough doesn't really work if you're not able to learn from your mistakes.

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.

>It seems like successful people would be able to recognize their faults and mistakes.

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..

Frankly, I'm just going on intuition. I don't see how you can actually achieve anything in life if you're constantly blaming everyone else for your problems and shortcomings. Note that I'm not just talking about material success, but rather about having skills or achievements that others recognize you for. I'm also not saying I expect high-achieving people to be particularly humble or admit their failings very publicly. I think successful people can become skilled about expressing their failings or shortcomings in terms of the opportunities available.

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.

You can read Steve Jobs' biography.

Yeah, I wondered the same thing when the Petraeus scandal started. I know people that have been fired, but they've just left it out of their resume and moved on to another job. That doesn't work so well when you're in such a prominent position that your firing is all over the internet.

it only means one thing :

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.

EXACTLY.. i called this some months ago when i saw him trying to convince developers of APPs that Windows 8 in desktop PCs are just like any other tablet consumer and will buy apps. Which is not true.. Good he's out.. Now Ballmer has top leave as well. Surface should be launched all around the world in all stores to developers see any penny coming from the Store. Instead they did that freaky show in New York with just a few Surfaces while Apple threw a big launch for iPad mini selling over 4 millions in a weekend. Surface could sell that much IF microsoft made it available in all stores. GO Ballmer!

Without Tablets the Store will sell NOTHING.

Am I the only one who has never heard of this guy?

Not at all, I expect my parents have never heard of him either.

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