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Microsoft is staying mum about the details behind the sudden departure of Steven Sinofsky, the company's top Windows executive. Speculation among channel partners and industry analysts centers on reported friction between Sinofsky and other Microsoft executives and questions about the demand for Windows 8 and the availability of applications for the new operating system.
"The timing of Sinofsky's departure is certainly curious," said Spencer Ferguson, president and CEO of Wasatch I.T., a Salt Lake City-based Microsoft partner. "I guess it's better that it happened now instead of before/during the Windows 8 launch."
Microsoft announced late Monday that effective immediately Sinofsky was out as president of the Windows and Windows Live Division, the unit responsible for developing and marketing the company's flagship PC operating system.
Julie Larson-Greene, a Microsoft employee since 1993 and most recently corporate vice president for the Windows experience, has been promoted to lead all Windows software and hardware engineering efforts. Tami Reller, currently chief financial officer and chief marketing officer for the Windows Division, retains those jobs and takes on the added responsibility for the business of Windows.
"They did have ready replacements for him, so I don't think the Windows 8 machine will stop," said Joseph Awe, president of TechBldrs, an Exton, Pa.-based Microsoft partner. "Microsoft isn't saying why Sinofsky's leaving and I hate to conjecture without facts."
Sinofsky's departure comes less than three weeks after Microsoft launched Windows 8 in a press event in New York. The executive shakeup raises questions whether early sales of Windows 8 and Surface, Microsoft's branded tablet computer, are meeting expectations.
One channel partner, who asked to remain anonymous, sees Sinofsky's departure as a positive because the partner saw him as a communications roadblock between the company and partners.
Sinofsky's obsession with secrecy was evident at last year's Build conference, the partner said, where Microsoft's field evangelists responsible for driving developer enthusiasm were not allowed to talk to Build attendees about Windows 8. "They literally could not engage in conversations, and they couldn't explain why," said the source.
Microsoft's near-total lockdown on information pertaining to Windows 8 has been a source of concern in the channel, agreed Tim Huckaby, CEO at InterKnowlogy, a Microsoft Gold partner in Carlsbad, Calif. He is cautiously optimistic that Sinofsky's departure will lead to a freer flow of information from Microsoft.
"If his leaving means the information embargo has been lifted and Microsoft's field employees are kept in the know about [product] road maps, that would help us dramatically," Huckaby told CRN. "When they went dark on partners, it really hurt our business."