This post came about because of two articles and a tweeter conversation. The articles, by Reuters; Microsoft’s next Steve: Windows boss faces biggest test; and Business Insider; Meet the next CEO of Microsoft: Steven Sinofsky Is The Heir Apparent; are profiles on Microsoft’s President of Windows and Windows Live Steven Sinofsky. There’s a third by Geek Wire; Microsoft’s Next CEO:If not Steven Sinofsky, Then who?; but that just expands on the Reuters article to discuss succession plans in Redmond. The articles are pretty balance overviews on the career of the man widely touted as the next head of Microsoft.
Now the only reason these pieces were written is because today the consumer beta of Windows 8 is being released. For those that don’t know Windows 8 is the next big release of Windows from Microsoft; and essentially its response to iOS and Android. This is a big release for both the company and Sinofsky. For Microsoft, Windows 8 is a large point about remaining relevant in the consumer computer market and the growing mobile computing space.
Image, Business Insider
For Sinofsky, the former head of Microsoft’s Office division, Windows 8 is a chance to show he can deliver a great consumer product and has the vision to deliver an original experience.
Steven Sinofsky is a polarizing figure in Redmond. On one hand he is largely credited with turning around the Windows division after the Longhorn/Vista debacle. He is able to ship in a timely manner; making sure what’s done works. Sinofsky is also credited with streamlining bureaucracy (cutting out middle management roles) bringing focus. But on the other hand he is seen as a technician, with no clear vision of what’s next. Sinofsky also is one of those people who falls under the Does not play well with others category. Its rumored that he was one of the reasons Ultra Mobile PCs had a hard time. Additionally his style of management has led to an exodus of employees. In that conversation I mentioned earlier (which was with Scott Barnes a former Microsoft evangelist riagenic.com) it was about Sinofsky’s lack of vision.
My take on Sinofsky is that he is a product guy with the ability to handle large sprawling projects. Is he a Jobsian tech guy with visions of Dieter Rams running through his head? Not enough data. The one thing I get from both articles is that he is cognizant of shifts in technology (the most famous incident involves the Internet). Sinofsky’s issues will be, especially if he wants the big chair, working with others and allowing ideas not his own to flourish. Also he is going to have to find a way to meld his style of management to the needs/wants of Microsoft’s culture.
On the other hand it seems a lot of Microsofties (as they are called) haven’t been aggressive or smart in protecting their necks. Here I’m thinking of J Allard, Andy Lees, and others in the Consumer side. From a purely business survival sense, they should of aligned skills with Sinofsky. I keep thinking what if Allard had worked with Sinofsky on the Courier (Microsoft’s other tablet idea); Windows 8 brings a lot of improved under the hood stuff that could have messed well with the ideas the Courier was aiming for. The biggest reason Sinofsky is where he is is because he ships and ships on time. He delivered and this is the reward.
Now the question is can he do that one more time.