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.