Microsoft turns to teamwork after Sinofsky's departure

16 Nov 2012
Microsoft

Steven Sinofsky's departure reveals CEO's plans for improving Microsoft

The sudden departure of Windows boss Steven Sinofsky is the first step in a plan by CEO Steve Ballmer to remodel Microsoft as a much more integrated operation, along the lines of Google and Apple, insiders at the company say.

Sources inside the company say Sinofsky's departure signals Ballmer's new-found focus on co-operation between its self-sufficient - and sometimes warring - units.

"What I'm hearing over and over is collaboration and horizontal integration is the new mantra," said one Microsoft insider, who asked not to be named. "They [top management] understand that, if they don't move to a model where devices and software are more integrated across the entire Microsoft system, they are in a weak position."

What I'm hearing over and over is collaboration and horizontal integration is the new mantra

After floundering for most of the last decade, Microsoft is trying to emulate the way Apple's software and hardware work perfectly together; or how Google's online suite from search to YouTube and Gmail are seamlessly joined.

Microsoft - which Ballmer rechristened as a "devices and services company" last month - has all the parts, analysts say, but has failed to put them together. Now Ballmer looks set to reshape the company to try to make that a reality.

"I certainly expect the org chart to look a lot different six months from now," said Brad Silverberg, who ran the Windows unit during its massive growth spurt in the 1990s. "There will be attrition from Steven's [Sinofsky's] people and Steve Ballmer will have a chance to create a more harmonious organisation."

Ballmer replaced Sinofsky with two executives with a reputation for co-operation. The move marks the third time in the last few years that Ballmer has replaced a single unit head with two leaders sharing responsibilities.

"Sinofsky really centralised all the power under himself. We'll see how it shakes out from here," said one manager in the Windows unit.

More fundamental organisational shifts could be in the cards. "A lot of things are up for grabs," said David Smith at tech research firm Gartner. "How the management is structured - there could be more changes."

No room for an empire builder

Sinofsky, a 23-year Microsoft veteran, built up a walled empire around his Windows unit.

His hard-charging but methodical style, which took on the name "Sinofskyisation," alienated other groups in the company, especially the Office unit, the other financial pillar of Microsoft's success.

"Steven is a brilliant guy who made tremendous contributions to Microsoft," said Silverberg. "But he was also a polarising guy and the antibodies ultimately caught up with him."

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