That was quick. Less than a month after Windows 8 hit shelves slightly obscured by the flurry of mixed reviews, the software's chief architect Steven Sinofsky is leaving the company. The news came in the form of a curiously timed late night press release on Monday night. (Quick PR fact: Good news tends to arrive during working hours when people are actually reading the news instead of watching football.) If you followed any of the news around the Windows 8 launch, you'll know that it didn't go so well. People who tested the software found to be confusing, and the company scrambled to do damage control in the days that followed.
Nevertheless, Steven was a champ about his abrupt departure. "It is impossible to count the blessings I have received over my years at Microsoft," Sinofsky said in a statement. "I am humbled by the professionalism and generosity of everyone I have had the good fortune to work with at this awesome company." Even Steve Ballmer had some kind words to offer. "I am grateful for the many years of work that Steven has contributed to the company," the Microsoft CEO in the release. "The products and services we have delivered to the market in the past few months mark the launch of a new era at Microsoft."
As with the vast majority of executive-level departures, words like "terminated" or "fired" or "laid off" were not thrown around. But when the press release includes words like "effective immediately" and fails to mention the departing employee's future plans, you can probably bet that the employee's departure wasn't exactly mutual. A good example of this type of thing was the executive shakeup at Apple that sent the man behind the epic fail that was iOS 6 Maps,Scott Forstall, packing.
We could be wrong. Sinofsky could've finished up work on Windows 8, abandoned his hopes of replacing Ballmer as CEO and decided that he'd rather leave the company where he'd worked for 23 years and start all over somewhere else. The New York Times did say that Microsoft described the departure as a mutual decision between Ballmer and Sinofsky, though the press release doesn't mention that. The Times also mentioned that Sinofsky was also a polarizing figure who alienated many other members of Microsoft's senior leadership team" and "was seen by many insiders as an unlikely replacement for Mr. Ballmer."
Regardless of the spin on the staff shuffling, Sinofsky will probably take a big fat vacation, as two fresh-faced Microsoft veterans take over his old duties. Julie Larson-Green, who sounds like she's worked on every major piece of Microsoft software, got a promotion and will be in charge of Windows software and hardware engineering, while chief financial officer and chief marketing officer Tami Reller will take over the business of Windows. (Somebody's going to have a busy 2013!) Meanwhile, Sinofsky is going to be cruising along a boardwalk somewhere on his sweet Microsoft Surface skateboard, wiping his brow with bundles of cash from his severance package. It could be worse.