Barely two weeks after playing a prominent role in Microsoft's launch of Windows 8 and the Surface tablet, Redmond veteran Steven Sinofsky is out as head of the Windows Division, effective immediately.
Sinofsky, who led development and marketing of Microsoft's flagship product for more than three years, joined the company as a software design engineer in July 1989. His departure, announced late Monday, was abrupt and took the tech and business worlds by surprise, with many likening the suddenness of the news to Apple's ouster of iOS chief Scott Forstall late last month.
Breaking the news, tech site All Things D cited unnamed sources as saying that the Microsoft executive's departure "came amid growing tension between Sinofsky and other top executives."
"Sinofsky, though seen as highly talented, was viewed at the top levels as not the kind of team player that the company was looking for," according to writer Ina Fried.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer addressed Sinofsky's departure in a company statement, describing the move as a "leadership change" without explaining why such a prominent and out-front executive was leaving the company so soon after the roll out of its biggest new product in years.
"I am grateful for the many years of work that Steven has contributed to the company. The products and services we have delivered to the market in the past few months mark the launch of a new era at Microsoft," Ballmer said.
"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."
Sinofsky took over the Windows Division in July 2009 after more than a decade contributing to and leading the development of Microsoft's Office products. He was also heavily involved in recruiting talent to the Redmond-based company over the years.
"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 in a statement.
Julie Larson-Green has been promoted to lead Windows software and hardware engineering, while chief financial officer and chief marketing officer Tami Reller will lead the business side of the Windows operation while retaining her current positions at the company, Microsoft said.
"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 of Larson-Green's new role.