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Microsoft Shows its Windows Chief the Door

Fresh off the release of Windows 8, Microsoft (MSFT) has decided to part ways with its Windows chief.

Microsoft issued a press release late Monday evening, saying that Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows Division, will leave the company, effective immediately. Sinofsky had spent close to 25 years at Microsoft and developed a reputation as someone who could oversee large, complex software projects and bring them in on time—or whatever counts as on time in Microsoft land. Before shepherding products such as Windows, Windows Live, and Outlook.com, he oversaw many iterations of Office.

The big knock on Sinofsky was his often-prickly nature. He wasn’t seen as a team player within Microsoft and was instead known for protecting his fiefdom. That approach doesn’t go over well at today’s Microsoft, which needs to prove that Windows is just one piece of a larger collective that includes phone software, online services, and entertainment products delivered via the Xbox. Sinofsky also proved reticent to speak with the press and was barely heard from as Windows 8 hit the market late last month.

Microsoft’s chief executive officer, Steve Ballmer, said all the standard, polite things in the statement about Sinofsky’s departure. “I am grateful for the many years of work that Steven has contributed to the company,” Ballmer said. Julie Larson-Green, a Microsoft veteran, has been tapped to run Windows software and hardware engineering and will report directly to Ballmer.

Windows 8 is Microsoft’s biggest gamble in years. The software has a radical new interface that’s equal parts beautiful, playful, and confusing. It brings Microsoft into the modern era, giving the company something that can run on tablets, smartphones, laptops, and PCs.

Sinofsky had been put in charge of Windows to make sure that Windows 8 did not end up a mess. The software has received mostly favorable reviews to date, although Microsoft has failed to drum up a ton of early interest around its application store. Critics of Sinofsky can point to this as an example of his inability to play nice with others and drive partner support. Ultimately, he was the guy who delivered big, complex software programs and did it well—and this was not seen as good enough at a time when Microsoft needs plenty of diplomacy and crafty tactics to regain consumer interest.

“It is impossible to count the blessings I have received over my years at Microsoft,” Sinofsky said on his way out. ”I am humbled by the professionalism and generosity of everyone I have had the good fortune to work with at this awesome company.”

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