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Sinofsky Denies Leadership Clash as Reason for Leaving Microsoft

The seemingly sudden departure of Microsoft Windows Division President Steven Sinofsky this week has generated rumors in the press, but Sinofsky himself has offered a blanket denial about personality clashes as being the reason.

An internal company memo from Sinofsky, published by CNet, denied that he left because of problems with Microsoft's upper management. Instead, Sinofsky says that his departure, which comes following successful product deliveries, including Windows 8, Internet Explorer 10, SkyDrive and Outlook.com, was just a personal decision he made at the end of the product cycle.

"Some might notice a bit of chatter speculating about this decision or timing," Sinofsky wrote in the memo, dated November 12. "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."

Sinofsky, a 23-year veteran at the company, is largely credited with having moved the company away from the problems that plagued Windows Vista by getting things to run on time with the next operating system, Windows 7. Vista had arrived on the market lacking driver support, and it required new hardware that could run the new Aero graphical user interface, leading to a lawsuit by consumers confused by Microsoft's marketing claims. With Windows 8, Sinofsky oversaw Microsoft's move to a new touch-based user interface that CEO Steve Ballmer once called Microsoft's "biggest bet." An unsourced Business Insider story suggested that Sinofsky quit because he wanted Ballmer's job.

Press accounts, citing unnamed sources, have depicted Sinofsky's departure as resulting from personality clashes with Microsoft's leadership. A New York Times story, without attribution, indicated that Ballmer held back in getting rid of Sinofsky so as not to disrupt the Windows 8 release cycle. Ballmer's displeasure was also explained in that story as resulting from there being a lack of applications for Windows 8, plus a scandal in which Microsoft didn't comply with a European Commission mandate on providing browser choice screens with Windows 7. An account by veteran Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley played up the personality clash angle. Foley even revealed that she had been "persona non grata" throughout Sinofsky's tenure heading the Windows team.

In any case, none of those notions were acknowledged by Sinofsky in his memo, which is published 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.

With my deepest appreciation,

Steven Sinofsky

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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