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Steven Sinofsky, a 23-year veteran at Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) who was widely presumed to be a favorite for the chief executive’s position in the near future and was the man behind the company’s recently launched Windows 8 operating system, has left the software maker. The move was completely unexpected and many are wondering if it was part of a process by current chief executive Steve Ballmer to get a firmer hold on the company. Neither Microsoft nor Sinofsky gave an explanation, though the decision was said to be mutual.
“This is shocking news,” Pacific Crest analyst Brendan Barnicle told Reuters. “This is very surprising. Like a lot of people, I thought Sinofsky was in line to potentially be Ballmer’s successor.”
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Sinofsky, who joined Microsoft in 1989, was the chief of the Windows unit. Only a few days ago, he oversaw the launch of the latest version of the operating system, calibrated for touch screen devices, as Microsoft tries to take on the dominance of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) in mobile computing. He also led the development of the company’s first-ever tablet, Surface. The 47-year-old first made his mark in the company as Bill Gates’ technical assistant, but eventually came to be known as an aggressive and competent leader. Some suggest Ballmer was not happy with the pace of progress under Sinofsky. “Within Microsoft’s lead cycle, Sinofsky was delivering at the early edge of it,” BCG analyst Colin Gillis told Reuters. “But now the competition has moved from a one-year cycle to a six-months cycle.”
Ballmer reportedly told employees in a memo on Monday that: “Steven Sinofsky has decided to leave the company.” Through a media statement he later added that it was “imperative that we continue to drive alignment across all Microsoft teams, and have more integrated and rapid development cycles for our offerings”.
Julie Larson-Green will now head the Windows hardware and software divisions and Tami Reller will remain the chief financial officer of the Windows unit.
The departure comes two weeks after Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) also changed around its top management, with iOS chief Scott Forstall and retail head John Browett leaving the company.
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