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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.”

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