Microsoft is mixing things up within the Windows Unit. After 23 years at the company, Steven Sinofsky, who was the lead effort behind the newest generation of Windows and the Surface tablet, is leaving the Microsoft. Sinofsky took over as the head of the Windows unit in 2006 and is largely credited with restoring confidence in the operating system after the disaster that was Windows Vista, and delivered the highly praised Windows 7 and pushed through the even bigger release of Windows 8.
Officially, this is a mutual decision between Sinofsky and Microsoft. In the press release, Steve Ballmer praised Sinofsky’s contributions to the company, citing specifically the new foundation Microsoft has laid out with Office 2013, Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, Surface and more. Ballmer also cited that Microsoft must have “more integrated and rapid development cycles for our offerings.” Sinofsky was equally tactful and conveyed gratitude for the professionalism and generosity at “this awesome company.”
The business of Windows will now be spearheaded through the efforts of two individuals. Julie Larson-Green is being promoted to lead all Windows software and hardware engineering and Tami Reller will take on responsibility for the business side of Windows in addition to her other roles at Microsoft. She will drive the business and marketing for Windows devices.
Larson-Green has been with Microsoft since 1993 and was a key player in the development of the user interface design in Windows 7 and Windows 8. Reller’s background dates back to 1984 at Great Plains Software which was acquired by Microsoft in 2001.
Here is the text of the email sent to Microsoft employees:
From: Steve Ballmer Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 5:16 PM To: Microsoft – All Employees (QBDG) Subject: Windows Leadership Changes
Over the past few months we have delivered the foundation for a new era for Microsoft. From Office to Bing to Windows Phone and Windows Azure, to Xbox and of course Windows and Surface and everything in between, we’ve unleashed a huge wave of devices and services that people and businesses love. I simply couldn’t be more proud of the effort you have all put in to get us here and to set the foundation for our future. At the Windows launch in New York, at the Windows Phone event in San Francisco, and again at the Build event on Redmond campus, I was struck that while externally many people look at these events as the finish line, they really represent the starting line of a new era.
As we enter this new era, and with the successful launch of Windows 8 and Surface behind us, Steven Sinofsky has decided to leave the company. Steven joined Microsoft in 1989 as a software development engineer and has contributed to the company in many ways from his work as a technical advisor to Bill Gates, to leading the evolution of the Microsoft Office business, to his direction and successful leadership of Windows and Windows Live as well as Surface. I am grateful for the work that Steven has delivered in his time at our company.
Effective immediately, Julie Larson-Green will lead Windows engineering. She will be responsible for all product development for Windows and Windows Live, in addition to Surface. Julie has been a stalwart leader of building compelling “experiences” from her time on Internet Explorer, through the evolution of Office and most recently to the re-imagination of Windows. Her unique product and innovation perspective and proven ability to effectively collaborate and drive a cross company agenda will serve us well as she takes on this new leadership role. All of the current Windows engineering teams will report into Julie, and Julie will report to me.
Tami Reller will lead business and marketing strategy for Windows including Surface and partner devices. She will provide broad stewardship to our PC marketing efforts while managing the line business functions for Windows. Her work on Windows since 2007 has been exemplary and her strong talents in working with internal groups and partners will also serve us well. Tami also will report to me.
We are facing a time of great opportunity. What we have accomplished over the past few years is nothing short of amazing, and I know we have more amazing in us. I am excited about our people, I am energized by our ability to change and grow, and I look forward to the success which lies ahead. Thank you for all you do, and please join me in congratulating our new leadership and celebrating all that we have accomplished so far.
We will not try to read between the lines of the statements made by the company or individuals involved. We know how dynamic Steve Ballmer is, and we will always have these images of Sinofsky using his surface as a skateboard.
UPDATE: Forbes received a copy of an email sent to Microsoft employees by Steven Sinofsky, that text is below:
From: Steven Sinofsky Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 5:42 PM To: Microsoft – All Employees (QBDG) Subject: RE: Windows Leadership Changes
With the general availability of Windows 8/RT and Surface, I have decided it is time for me to take a step back from my responsibilities at Microsoft. I’ve always advocated using the break between product cycles as an opportunity to reflect and to look ahead, and that applies to me too.
After more than 23 years working on a wide range of Microsoft products, I have decided to leave the company to seek new opportunities that build on these experiences. My passion for building products is as strong as ever and I look forward focusing my energy and creativity along similar lines.
The Windows team, in partnerships across all of Microsoft and our industry, just completed products and services introducing a new era of Windows computing. It is an incredible experience to be part of a generational change in a unique product like Windows, one accomplished with an undeniable elegance. Building on Windows, Surface excels in design and utility for a new era of PCs. With the Store, Internet Explorer, Outlook.com, SkyDrive and more, each of which lead the way, this experience is connected to amazing cloud services.
It is inspiring to think of these efforts making their way into the hands of Microsoft’s next billion customers. We can reflect on this project as a remarkable achievement for each of us and for the team. Our work is not done, such is the world of technology, and so much more is in store for customers.
It is impossible to count the blessings I have received over my years at Microsoft. I am humbled by the professionalism and generosity of everyone I have had the good fortune to work with at this awesome company. I am beyond grateful.
I have always promised myself when the right time came for me to change course, I would be brief, unlike one of my infamous short blog posts, and strive to be less memorable than the products and teams with which I have been proudly and humbly associated. The brevity of this announcement is simply a feature.
Some might notice a bit of chatter speculating about this decision or timing. I can assure you that none could be true as this was a personal and private choice that in no way reflects any speculation or theories one might read–about me, opportunity, the company or its leadership.
As I’ve always believed in making space for new leaders as quickly as possible, this announcement is effective immediately and I will assist however needed with the transition.
I am super excited for what the future holds for the team and Microsoft.
REDMOND, Wash. — Nov. 12, 2012 — Microsoft Corp. today announced that Windows and Windows Live President Steven Sinofsky will be leaving the company and that Julie Larson-Green will be promoted to lead all Windows software and hardware engineering. Tami Reller retains her roles as chief financial officer and chief marketing officer and will assume responsibility for the business of Windows. Both executives will report directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
These changes are effective immediately.
“I am grateful for the many years of work that Steven has contributed to the company,” Ballmer said. “The products and services we have delivered to the market in the past few months mark the launch of a new era at Microsoft. We’ve built an incredible foundation with new releases of Microsoft Office, Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, Microsoft Surface, Windows Server 2012 and ‘Halo 4,’ and great integration of services such as Bing, Skype and Xbox across all our products. To continue this success it is imperative that we continue to drive alignment across all Microsoft teams, and have more integrated and rapid development cycles for our offerings.”
“It is impossible to count the blessings I have received over my years at Microsoft. I am humbled by the professionalism and generosity of everyone I have had the good fortune to work with at this awesome company,” Sinofsky said.
Since 1993, Larson-Green has worked on and led some of the most successful products for Microsoft, including the user experiences for early versions of Internet Explorer, and helped drive the thinking behind the refresh of the user experience for Microsoft Office. For Windows 7 and Windows 8 she was responsible for program management, user interface design and research, as well as development of all international releases. She has a master's degree in software engineering from Seattle University and a bachelor's degree in business administration from Western Washington University. In her new role she will be responsible for all future Windows product development in addition to future hardware opportunities.
“Leading Windows engineering is an incredible challenge and opportunity, and as I looked at the technical and business skills required to continue our Windows trajectory — great communication skills, a proven ability to work across product groups, strong design, deep technical expertise, and a history of anticipating and meeting customer needs — it was clear to me that Julie is the best possible person for this job, and I’m excited to have her in this role,” Ballmer said.
Reller joined Windows in 2007 from the Microsoft Dynamics Division where she held a number of leadership positions. She began her career in technology at Great Plains Software in 1984 while still in college, and was the company’s chief financial officer at the time the company was acquired by Microsoft in 2001. She has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Minnesota State University Moorhead and an MBA from St. Mary's College in Moraga, Calif. In her expanded role she will assume the lead in driving business and marketing strategy for Windows devices, including Surface and partner devices, in addition to her current marketing and finance responsibilities.
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