Was Sinofsky’s departure a power play by Ballmer?

I think we were all surprised to see Windows chief Steven Sinofsky step down on Monday. At the time, some speculated that Sinofsky was let go because he didn’t play well with others—the same criticism levied at Apple’s Scott Forstall, who resigned as iOS chief under similarly abrupt circumstances last month.

There might have been other factors at play, though.

Forbes Contributor Eric Jackson has an interesting take on Sinofsky’s departure. He writes, "There was no failure by Sinofsky in his job duties . . . The only bad thing anyone’s had to say about Sinofsky is that he could be ‘prickly.’"

Rather, Jackson views the recent executive shakeup as a power play by Steve Ballmer, who may have felt his position as CEO threatened. CNet News indeed commented on Monday that some had pegged Sinofsky as a "CEO-in-waiting." Jackson summarizes, "Basically, Sinofsky was a threat to Ballmer, so Ballmer eliminated him."

Such a strategy wouldn’t be unheard of. John Chambers, who’s been at the helm of Cisco for the past 10 years, has "systematically forced out any senior executive that showed potential to perhaps take over," according to Jackson. Ballmer has been Microsoft CEO for 12 years and has worked at the company in various capacities for more than three decades, so he could be even more attached to the job than Chambers.

Of course, Jackon’s analysis does have a ring of conspiracy theory to it. Sinofsky sought to curb that kind of speculation in a letter to employees, which was published by Paul Thurrott on Monday evening. In the letter, Sinofsky stated:

Some might notice a bit of chatter speculating about this decision or timing. I can assure you that none could be true as this was a personal and private choice that in no way reflects any speculation or theories one might read—about me, opportunity, the company or its leadership.

Maybe the truth is that simple, and Sinofsky had a personal and entirely reasonable reason to step down. Then again, a power play by Ballmer doesn’t seem entirely outside the realm of possibility.

Comments closed
    • HisDivineOrder
    • 7 years ago

    Ballmer’s a raging egomaniac. Look at how long it took him to take MS and screw it up after Gates left. A better man would have left the company to someone else’s hands long ago after it became obvious he couldn’t right the ship. Instead, he just continues to fumble around like a drunken man in the dark.

    This sounds just like him. A lot of the rumors were that Sinofsky was the reason Windows 8 came out on time, Sinofsky was the reason Windows 7 did so well after Vista took forever (and a restart no less) and cost too much to get out. Sinofsky got all the credit, Ballmer was getting all the blame for all the things Ballmer did wrong.

    So he couldn’t have Sinofsky proving himself even more in the light of how badly Ballmer was doing. Better to cull the “name” from the top and reassert how awesome you are, I guess?

      • l33t-g4m3r
      • 7 years ago

      Sinofsky may have gotten things done, but they weren’t good things for desktop users, and he’s just as psychotic as Ballmer. If this truly is the direction Ballmer wants Microsoft to go in, then I’d rather it be handled by a bunch of unorganized incompetents making Microsoft’s destruction all the more inevitable. Microsoft doesn’t deserve to do well when their business practices are deliberately harming the userbase.

      After a certain point, the shareholders will tire of Ballmer’s leadership, and everyone responsible for 8 will be canned. That will be a great day.

    • TaBoVilla
    • 7 years ago

    I don’t like [url=http://winsupersite.com/<]Paul Thurrott's[/url<] winsupersite new layout/colors much, am I the only one? it looks so "metro"

      • l33t-g4m3r
      • 7 years ago

      Why bother? He only writes advertorials nowadays.

      I did get a rather big kick out of this [url=http://winsupersite.com/windows-rt/why-surface-rt-part-5-mouse<]article[/url<] though: [quote<]Remember, folks. Fingers are fine for finger painting. But when you want to get real work done, nothing beats a keyboard and a mouse.[/quote<] LOL. (It's funny because of Metro.)

    • Meadows
    • 7 years ago

    I guess Ballmer didn’t get enough hits at the Charms Bar, so he became jealous.

    • NeelyCam
    • 7 years ago

    [i<]IF[/i<] this is true, it's a sign of a horribly managed company. The board's job is to ensure that the ship is steered by the top people rather than those that play the Game Of Thrones most effectively. Instead of power plays there should be a long-term CEO succession plan in place. If Gates was dead, he'd be rolling in his grave

      • TO11MTM
      • 7 years ago

      I doubt this is true. Sinofsky wasn’t ‘Prickly,’ he was a Prick. Allegations abound of him using his position of being in charge of Microsoft’s Flagship product to dick around with other units. (There’s a lot of speculation that he was behind the thankfully-reversed decision to not have Visual Studio Express for Desktop after 2010.) It’s fairly known that he was the big pusher in killing Aero Glass as well as the start button.

      So yeah. If Ballmer was playing GOT, it was only to protect the kingdom from a narcissist. Whether that’s better than a Chair-lobber, I do not know.

    • danny e.
    • 7 years ago

    Ballmer is an idiot also, he should go as well.

      • Duck
      • 7 years ago

      He is a complete plank. I’m sure there is going to be someone better.

        • NeelyCam
        • 7 years ago

        Tl;dr version:

        [url<]http://semiaccurate.com/2012/11/14/microsoft-has-failed/[/url<]

          • l33t-g4m3r
          • 7 years ago

          WOW. That’s the best synopsis of what’s actually going on I’ve read to date. I guess it really does take an outsider to tell it like it is, because god knows Ars wouldn’t.

            • ludi
            • 7 years ago

            That article has been written before, numerous times and usually shorter and better, over at least the past ten years. Microsoft is still here, and meanwhile their competitors and potential supplanters (Apple, Google) have their own problems that are preventing Total Market Domination 2.0 from launching — Apple has lost The Steve and is starting to enter the inevitable process of executive churn and product stagnation, and Google’s ad network is a license to print money but they still can’t figure out what they want to be when they grow up.

            • Meadows
            • 7 years ago

            I’m sure Microsoft will wake up at some point, but S|A does make very good points about the current situation as it stands.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 7 years ago

    Gates was in agreement that Sinofsky should go and he’s more detached than Ballmer. If Sinofsky really was as much of a territorial controller as everyone has said that goes against Microsoft’s desired unification across divisions which requires cooperation. I’m going to go with Occam’s Razor here and say that not being a team player is what lead to this.

      • sschaem
      • 7 years ago

      As wild as it may sound, some of the arbitrary decision by Sinofsky on windows8 might not have been popular inside microsoft.
      You have like 50,000 geeks that use windows 10 hours a day, on desktop (no touch), those are not the mom & grand ma demographics that find the start screen cool…
      They are hard core desktop users.

      Sinofsky was in his glass tower playing Steve Jobs
      “I know better then anyone”
      “My vision is pure”
      “My vision is the only one”

      Down below people where screaming to stop the madness.

      Well, people like that either get praised as geniuses or scarified to the lions.

      Windows8 is not doing well, Windows8 RT is not doing well… He went straight to the lions.

      Now if windows8 was a smashing success, he would have been CEO material.
      He would have proven that “he knows better” and can make decision that are not popular but prove to be right.. failed and failed.

      Sinofsky gambled his reputation and lost.

    • spigzone
    • 7 years ago

    Pretty simple. Sinofsky was an asset while his toe stomping make it happen no matter what ability to GET IT DONE ON TIME got the various Windows 8 projects out the door and becomes a liability after when the focus shifts to cohere the various fiefdoms of the company behind a common ‘ecosystem’ vision and all that enemy making toe stomping fiefdom expansion drive becomes a distraction. Microsoft has had the pieces for a very long time to do a unified ecosystem similar to what Apple did, they just didn’t have the coherent vision and inter-departmental cooperation to make it happen. Which caused endless hair pulling among Ms bloggers such as Paul Thurrott.

    Now he would retard further progress, time for him to go. Good for the bloggers also as his Steve Jobs worship driven secrecy fetish was directly responsible for the information access headaches they’ve experienced for the last few years.

    Hope he doesn’t end up on the streets begging for change.

    That would just be sad.

    • Anarchist
    • 7 years ago

    when a product chief resigns few weeks after major release of the product he is in charge of, … it can mean only one thing. The product is bombing. The product that is bombing is probably not just the win8 itself but the RT tablet and likely pre-order of their “pro” tablet. Before the x-mas selling season begins expect to see RT-tablet price to drop below $400 with their keyboard cover.

      • douglar
      • 7 years ago

      That makes a lot of sense. I don’t see any other answer to this one. What happens if this is Kin phone #2 ?

      • spigzone
      • 7 years ago

      A FEW WEEKS after a MAJOR RELEASE is certainly more than enough time to make a final determination of success or failure.

      I thimk, therefore I … uh …

    • chuckula
    • 7 years ago

    “I’VE GOT THE [s<]CHAIR[/s<] POWER!" -- Steve Ballmer

    • Farting Bob
    • 7 years ago

    So some guy who doesnt work for microsoft says “oh maybe its because Ballmer is scared of someone making him look bad” and that is news?

      • Arclight
      • 7 years ago

      It’s a topic for duscussion, you bet.

        • indeego
        • 7 years ago

        Turtles. I like them.

          • Kurotetsu
          • 7 years ago

          Especially in soup. Anyone have any recipe ideas?

            • Arclight
            • 7 years ago

            Pretty sure Epic Meal Time cooked turtle at some point.

            Edit
            And here it is:
            [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toiLy3R-38M[/url<]

      • BabelHuber
      • 7 years ago

      Ballmer should be scared! More and more analysts – and myself – see the last 10 years as a lost decade for MS.

      – Windows Mobile: Fail
      – WP7: Fail
      – XBOX: Success in the market, but rarely any profits made
      – Windows Server: Loss of market share to Linux/ Unix

      So no, MS is not in a good shape. All bets are now on WP8, WART and Windows 8.

      And with these products, Ballmer is more headed to copy Apple than to stick to Windows’ strengths.

      Effects so far:

      – Desktop users give Win8 a mixed reception
      – WART sales ‘modest’
      – OEMs sceptical at best and alienated at worst because of MS’ own Surface-tablets
      – x86 tablets not on the market for the X-mas season
      – WP8 ??? (my bet is that it will fail like WP7, but only time will tell)

      So yes, Ballmer should be scared!

        • ludi
        • 7 years ago

        I think you’re looking at WP8 from the wrong angle — the consumer market.

        If WP8 can seamlessly merge itself into the Windows ecosystem (something WP7 never managed), it will kill in corporate markets. ActiveSync support across multiple platforms is kind of a nightmare right now, having uniform Outlook support and remote administration rights on all company hardware would be a huge cost and time saver for large IT departments.

          • BabelHuber
          • 7 years ago

          This would be correct if WP8 was targeted at the enterprise market and smartphones would be something new.

          As it is now, Android and iOS are already deeply entrenched in both markets. Big enterprises already use Blackberry, iOS, Android or a mixture of these OSes. Replacing them with WP8 would take years, and this is even ignoring BYOD.

          WP8 is a total newcomer and its market success is doubtful at best. After the mess MS left with WinMobile and WP7, I don’t know why anybody should trust MS this time.

          Just because they are saying ‘this time it will be different’? I wouldn’t bet at it.

          If you don’t believe me, just look at WP’s market share. It’s tiny. It’S irrelevant. It’s light years away from becoming the so-called ‘third ecosystem’.

            • ludi
            • 7 years ago

            Blackberry is in a death spiral, and in the US market, at least, people churn through phones every 1-2 years, so rollover is not exactly hard. Currently our IT department only officially supports company phones, of which there are at least several hundred in circulation. They are currently standardized on Verizon/Droid but I could see them switching to WP8 in one annual upgrade cycle if the mood struck, particularly if it made their life easier on the support and security side of things.

            • BabelHuber
            • 7 years ago

            You don’t seem to get how brutal WP fails in the market.

            Here are the cold, hard numbers from Q3:

            [url<]http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2012/11/smartphones-q3-final-numbers-top-10-biggest-manufacturers-operating-systems-installed-base-etc.html[/url<] [quote<]BIGGEST SMARTPHONE OPERATING SYSTEMS BY UNIT SALES IN Q3 2012 Rank . OS Platform . . . . . . Units . . . . . Market share  . . Was in Q2 of 2012 1 . . . . Android . . . . . . . . . 121.2 M . . . . 70.7 % . . . . . . . ( 66.9 %) 2 . . . . iOS  . . . . . . . . . . . . 26.9 M . . . . 15.7 % . . . . . . . ( 17.0 %) 3 . . . . Blackberry . . . . . . . . 7.4 M . . . . . 4.3 % . . . . . . . (  5.1 %) 4 . . . . bada  . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.2 M . . . . . 3.0 % . . . . . . . (   2.7 %) 5 . . . . Symbian  . . . . . . . . . 3.4 M . . . . . 2.0 % . . . . . . . (  3.3 %)  6 . . . . Windows Phone . . . . 3.3 M . . . . . 1.9 % . . . . . . . (   3.0 %) others . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  4.0 M . . . . . 2.3 % . . . . . . . (   1.1 %) TOTAL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171.4 M Source: TomiAhonen Consulting Estimates November 14, 2012 from vendor data and other sources This table may be freely distributed[/quote<] So yes, Symbian still sells more smartphones than WP. It was declared being dead in February 2011 while WP got a huge marketing budget, and still it outsells WP. Or look at bada. No new phones for more than a year, no marketing and Samsung declared it dead, too. Tizen will become Samsung's new OS. Still it outsells WP, and considerably so. And now my favorite numbers, the installed base: [quote<]INSTALLED BASE OF SMARTPHONES BY OPERATING SYSTEM AS OF Q3 2012 Rank . OS Platform . . . . . . Units . . . . . Market share  . . Was in Q2 of 2012 1 . . . . Android . . . . . . . . . 559 M . . . . . 48 % . . . . . . . . ( 41 %) 2 . . . . iOS  . . . . . . . . . . . 217 M . . . . . 19 % . . . . . . . . ( 19 %) 3 . . . . Symbian . . . . . . . . 213 M . . . . . 18 % . . . . . . . . ( 25 %) 4 . . . . Blackberry  . . . . . . 109 M . . . . . . 9 % . . . . . . . . ( 10 %) 5 . . . . bada . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 M . . . . .  2 % . . . . . . . . (   2 %) 6 . . . . Windows Phone . . . . 17 M . . . . . 1 % . . . . . . . . (   1 %) 7 . . . . Windows Mobile . . . . 10 M  . . . .  1 % . . . . . . . . (   1 %) Others . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 M . . . . .  1 % . . . . . . . . (   2 %) TOTAL Installed Base . . . 1,166 M smartphones in use at end of Q3 2012 Source: TomiAhonen Consulting Estimates November 14, 2012 from vendor data and other sources This table may be freely distributed[/quote<] So with these numbers and a track record of releasing new OSes which are incompatible to their predecessor, I don't think corporations will switch to WP.

            • NeelyCam
            • 7 years ago

            [quote<]"TomiAhonen Consulting Estimates"[/quote<] Yeah, these are [b<]estimates[/b<] from a jilted ex-Nokia executive with a vendetta. I.e., press the "Ignore" button

            • BabelHuber
            • 7 years ago

            Good strategy – if you can’t argue against something, simply attack the messenger.

            Stupid people will probably be impressed, smart people not so.

            If you doubt these numbers, just provide another source, then we have a base for discussion.

            But I can directly give you a clue: You won’t find reliable sources which say otherwise.

            Perhaps you should have taken the time to read this in the link I provided:

            [quote<]We now have all four big analyst houses who have reported their total market size numbers (IDC, Gartner, Strategy Analytics and Canalys) and as I always do, I use their average as my 'official total' and then fit the best possible fit, of the biggest manufacturers, operating systems etc to get the Top 10 market shares.[/quote<] So let's just look at Gartner: [url<]http://www.engadget.com/2012/11/14/gartner-phone-sales-q3-2012/[/url<] Oops, the numbers are almost identical! What a surprise! So go troll elsewhere. Edit: Keep in mind that Gartner sums up WinMobile and WP sales, hence they simply state 'Microsoft'.

            • NeelyCam
            • 7 years ago

            [quote<]You don't seem to get how brutal WP fails in the market. Here are the cold, hard numbers from Q3:[/quote<] [quote<]Oops, the numbers are almost identical! What a surprise![/quote<] Not identical; Gartner's numbers show growth of market share (while Tomi's show decrease), directly contradicting your point. How do you explain that? [url<]http://www.quartertothree.com/game-talk/showthread.php?t=69745[/url<] Google the guy a bit. He [i<]hates[/i<] Elop, with passion - presumably because of what happened that got him fired. I rather trust analysts that are cold and emotional. [quote<]So go troll elsewhere.[/quote<] You should do that yourself

            • BabelHuber
            • 7 years ago

            [quote<]Not identical; Gartner's numbers show growth of market share (while Tomi's show decrease), directly contradicting your point. How do you explain that?[/quote<] You really have problems reading data! Gartner shows the combined sales of WinMobile and WP7 compared to Q3 2011, while Tomi schows the WP7-sales compared to Q2 2012. To sum it up: - Gartner shows Microsoft sold more smartphones with an MS-OS in Q3 2012 compared to Q3 2011 - Tomi shows that Microsoft sold less WP7-phones in Q3 2012 than in Q2 2012 So where is your contradiction, Einstein? Besides: Selling twice as much is not impressive when your market share remains in the low single digits. [quote<]Google the guy a bit. He hates Elop, with passion - presumably because of what happened that got him fired. I rather trust analysts that are cold and emotional.[/quote<] It does not matter what you think about Tomi. The only thing that matters is if the numbers are correct. And they are. Besides: Tomi was one of the first analysts who pointed out that Elop'S Windows Phone strategy is a disaster. Back then guys like you called him a 'hater' or even worse. But he has always been right with his predictions. Nokia is a dead man walking. So go troll elsewhere or learn how to read. Edit: Spelling error

            • NeelyCam
            • 7 years ago

            [quote<]So where is your contradiction, Einstein?[/quote<] [quote<]So go troll elsewhere or learn how to read.[/quote<] Personal insults don't make your argument any stronger; they merely show that you're getting emotional, just like this Tomi guy. Are you Finnish? I know it's popular in Finland to hate Elop, but don't let that distract you from facts. In fact, are you Tomi? [quote<]You really have problems reading data![/quote<] I'm not sure why you say that.. you linked Gartner's data that clearly shows an increase in market share, yet you say "You don't seem to get how brutal WP fails in the market." I'm sorry, but it looks like you have problems reading data. Your only data point that supports that assessment is the blog post from Tomi. You're free to trust numbers from some blogger who calls himself a consultant/analyst (and who seems to be on a mission to destroy Elop.. did you google him yet? see those tweets?), but I rather look at numbers from a reputable consultant company.

            • BabelHuber
            • 7 years ago

            [quote<]I'm not sure why you say that.. you linked Gartner's data that clearly shows an increase in market share, yet you say "You don't seem to get how brutal WP fails in the market." I'm sorry, but it looks like you have problems reading data.[/quote<] I already have answered that in the post before: [quote<]Gartner shows the combined sales of WinMobile and WP7 compared to Q3 2011, while Tomi schows the WP7-sales compared to Q2 2012. To sum it up: - Gartner shows Microsoft sold more smartphones with an MS-OS in Q3 2012 compared to Q3 2011 - Tomi shows that Microsoft sold less WP7-phones in Q3 2012 than in Q2 2012[/quote<] Don't you understand this? Because I cannot think of any reason for your answer unless you have problems comprehending statistics or you are deliberately trolling. If you only try to get the last word by repeating the same stuff again and again without actually replying to my points then just go ahead, you'll get the last word. Buy yourself a cookie. [quote<]Your only data point that supports that assessment is the blog post from Tomi.[/quote<] No, Gartner agrees with Tomi. Gartner gives MS combined sales of WP and WinMobile of 4 Million devices (2.4% combined marketshare), while Tomi states WP alone sold 3.3 Million devices (1.9% market share) You don't want to say that 2.4% is a success while 1.9% is a failure, do you? Because in both cases MS has failed miserably in the smartphone market. [quote<]Personal insults don't make your argument any stronger;[/quote<] Perhaps. But your serious failures in understanding statistical data turns your argument into a mere joke.

            • NeelyCam
            • 7 years ago

            Enough with the insults. I have a very good understanding of statistics. Don’t bring it up again.

            I thought I was clear about not trusting Tomi’s data. Did you miss that every time I mentioned it? I have my concerns about Gartner’s data as well (especially when it comes to PCs), but “Tomi Ahonen Consulting” is not at the same level reputation-wise.

            If we take Tomi’s data out, all we’re left is Gartner’s data that points to an INCREASE in MS market share. I don’t truly know what is the distribution between Windows Mobile and Windows Phone (since I ignore Tomi’s numbers), but if WP market share is actually decreasing, that would mean Windows Mobile market share is [i<]increasing[/i<]. Is that what you are trying to say? Because to me that would sound silly, with plenty of new WP phones out and Windows Mobile being killed. What is considered success is a different topic altogether. WP hasn't gained much market share yet, but it takes a while to do that, especially when two strong, well established alternatives are available. Gartner's data is pointing to a Microsoft market share increase Q3/11 to Q3/12. I'd like to see how that market share changes in the next few quarters before making a judgement... I think it's too early to say that "WP/Nokia is dead". If you insist on Tomi's data being solid (i.e., the data that shows WP marketshare shrinking and, when coupled with Gartner data, Windows Mobile marketshare increasing), then there's no point in discussing this any further.

    • Hattig
    • 7 years ago

    A senior departure like this is managed far better than this, with very very long lead times so the stock market doesn’t react badly (big drop yesterday in raection to this sudden news).

    Unless a very close relative has terminal cancer (or similar), I don’t think this was ever a personal decision. There is no transition plan set in place, nothing. As Ars put it, when these things are planned, they are announced months and months in advance (e.g., Jim Allchin’s departure was announced 15 months ahead of the actual date).

    • Arclight
    • 7 years ago

    If that’s what it was then i hold no hopes for Windows 9.

      • sweatshopking
      • 7 years ago

      everyone knows it’s been downhill since 3.1

        • Saribro
        • 7 years ago

        All the more proof that MS needs to bring back punctuation in Windows version names. It’s the only thing that will save them.

          • sweatshopking
          • 7 years ago

          we should have windows 8.1, then we woulD ALL LOVE IT

            • Grigory
            • 7 years ago

            “Windows 8.1, now with 100% less TIFKAM and 100% more Start button.” I don’t know but that doesn’t sound so bad. TIFKAM-Apps could still run inside a Window.

        • 5150
        • 7 years ago

        I disagree. 3.11 was amazing!

          • BiffStroganoffsky
          • 7 years ago

          I seem to remember 3.11 being for ‘workgroups’ only and not retail. Either way, it was a pain in the butt to get a LAN session of Air Warrior going back in the days on 3.x so thumbs down from me. I also give GEnie a thumbs down for their network lag.

          • sweatshopking
          • 7 years ago

          HERETIC.

        • Duck
        • 7 years ago

        Windows 98 SE FTW

        • ThAlEdison
        • 7 years ago

        Agreed, 3.11 for Workgroups was a step in the wrong direction.

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