Steve 2.0: Windows Chief Poised to Become Ballmer's Heir-Apparent
February 28, 2012 2:41 PM
After successful launches of Office 2003, Office 2007, and Windows 7 Steven Sinofsky is on the verge of stardom
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is facing some very real questions about its long-term succession plans. While current chief executive Steve Ballmer is "healthy as a horse", he's also 55 and contemplating retirement to spend more time with his wife and children. Past statements indicated that Mr. Ballmer would
retire in 2018
, at age 61.
I. Steve 2.0: Groomed by Bill Gates, Destined for Greatness
The question facing Microsoft is who will succeed the iconic Steve in a little over half a decade.
For a time Ray Ozzie, former chief technical officer, was thought to be a leading candidate. But Mr. Ozzie
left the company in 2010
to found a startup firm. Some say the move was in part due to frustration after Microsoft
sunk the Courier tablet concept
, which was poised in 2010 to
become the earliest competitor
to Apple, Inc.'s (
Ironically, the man perhaps the most responsible for the death of Courier, is now shepherd Microsoft into a new era of rich tablet interfaces. That man is Windows President Steven Sinofsky, and he is considered by many to be an emerging front runner to become the next chief executive -- Steve 2.0, if you will -- at Microsoft.
Windows President Steven Sinofsky is a strong candidate to succeed Steve Ballmer in 2018 as CEO. [Image Source: ExtremeTech]
While no one could truly replace the boisterous Ballmer, Mr. Sinofsky is known to be a strong, uncompromising leader who could propel Microsoft to continued success. He was hand picked as a technical assistant to Bill Gates in 1989 after he graduated from
's graduate school and secured a position at Microsoft.
Mr. Sinofsky was a visionary force, pressuring Gates to recognize that the internet was becoming as "ubiquitous and expected as regular phone service." Mr. Gates praises Mr. Sinofsky and credits him, in part, for waking him up to the coming internet revolution.
II. A Strong Track Record
Made Vice President in charge of the Microsoft Office team, Mr. Sinofsky orchestrated the successful release of Office 2003 and Office 2007. The successes prompted Microsoft to
name him Windows Vice President in 2006
, just before the launch of Vista.
Like Mr. Ballmer, Mr. Sinofsky has endured his fair share of criticism. While it was largely not his design, he nonetheless shared in the loads of flak for the unpolished, poorly-marketed Vista. He drew yet more criticism for killing Courier due to his refusal to compromise on a tablet that lacked support for key products like Exchange Server/Outlook and Microsoft Office.
Despite that criticism, Mr. Sinofsky has been universally praised for his
, Windows 7. Seen by many as
a rebirth of Windows
, the new operating system was allowed by Mr. Sinofsky's unique style of management. Some call his method of cutting through the typical layers of bureaucracy as "Sinofskyization".
The success of Windows 7
earned Mr. Sinofsky a new rank
-- Windows President.
Windows 7 was a stellar vindication of Steven Sinofsky's unique management style.
[Image Source: AP]
At the 2012 Mobile World Congress tomorrow (Feb. 29), Mr. Sinofsky, age 46, is expected to face his stiffest test yet -- announcing the public beta candidate release of Windows 8.
Windows 8 is
set to launch later this year
. It will mark Microsoft
richest OS user interface yet
, and adds
dedicated tablet-minded user interfaces
. In other words, Mr. Sinofsky -- once accused of being a tablet murderer -- has put forth a product that may prove Microsoft's salvation in this increasingly lucrative market.
A strong performance could solidify the Windows President's position as Microsoft heir-apparent. Frank Artale, managing director at Seattle-based venture capital firm Ignition, told
that Mr. Sinofsky has both the "the tech chops" and "panache and showmanship" needed to give a strong performance.
III. Scrapping Traditional Management and Fiefdoms
Mr. Sinofsky would bring a different brand of leadership to Microsoft. While he can reportedly be viciously critical when necessary, he doesn't swear at employees in meetings as Bill Gates was famous for doing, or scream at them like Steve Ballmer was known to do (Mr. Sinofsky also does not throw chairs in meetings).
The friendly, but tough executive has described his leadership approach
in the Windows Team Blog
(a creation of Mr. Sinofsky's embodying his more open style of development) and other blogs as "bottom-up", which he views as a departure from the traditional "top-down" form of management. The process is inherently democratic in the planning stage, but then transforms into a traditional hierarchy during the execution phase.
Describes a former executive to
, "It's a bottom-up plan that is built and locked in a systematic way. Everyone gets input on the plan, but once the plan is set, it's set."
That said, Mr. Sinofsky has been careful to make Microsoft
very receptive to customer feedback
-- something Microsoft traditionally had been less than stellar at.
The Windows chief also reduced the number of managers between him and the lowest-ranking Windows team employees from 7 to 3 or 4. Sources say the approach eliminated the Windows team's increasing bloat and self-destructive tendency towards fiefdoms.
Mr. Sinofsky has battled to eliminate anti-productive management fiefdoms within in the Windows team. [Image Source: Amazon]
"The techs know they can't sandbag him," says another source, speaking to one of Mr. Sinofsky's strengths -- strong fundamental coding knowledge.
Mr. Sinofsky is much more humble about his own coding prowess, stating, "My code was always nice and orderly, but I probably couldn't write enough code fast enough to really be the very best at programming."
IV. Critics are Going to Criticize
Some have their doubts about Mr. Sinofsky. Yet another
ex-Microsoft executive source scathingly summarizes, "Bill Gates had the most amazing mind I've ever encountered. You could show him a PowerPoint slide and he would ask why it was different from the one you showed him three years ago. Steve Ballmer is the most intuitively mathematical person I've ever worked with. Steve (Sinofsky) is neither of those things."
And some see him as too stiff and rigid, in contrast Mr. Artale's praise. Mini-Microsoft, a blog operated by an anonymous Microsoft insider that offers creative criticism of the firm, calls Mr. Sinofsky "Spock-meets-Spartan".
And Ryan Lowdermilk, an influential Windows app developer known for his podcasts, offers mixed sentiments to
stating, "I don't think people care for his presentation style. He's one of those super-intelligent types that come off as a little dry. But developers respect people who ship product. That's what people like about him the most."
But ultimately Mr. Sinofsky's leadership style reminds one of a little bit of another iconic figure in the tech community --
Steven P. Jobs
. Albeit a
bit more rational
than Mr. Jobs, Mr. Sinofsky bears more of a closer resemblance to the late Apple chief -- trim, unassuming, yet quietly commanding -- than he does to the tall, hulking Mr. Ballmer. And his relentless approach to product delivery and his knack for seeing the big picture both offer his strongest passing resemblance to Mr. Jobs.
Mr. Sinofsky may not be Mr. Jobs. And he's definitely no Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer. But the products he's design from start to finish read like a compilation of Microsoft's greatest modern success -- early builds of Internet Explorer, Office 2003, Office 2007, Windows 7, and now Windows 8.
Windows 8 is Steven Sinofsky's time to shine. [Image Source: Reuters]
Clearly he's doing something right. And if he can keep it up and have a strong showing at MWC, he may earn the nod from
influential investors like David Einhorn
, who are
all too ready
to see the hyperactive Mr. Ballmer take his final bow.
"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer
Steve Jobs Was Given Bush Sr.-Era Post Despite LSD Use, Reality Distortion
February 13, 2012, 11:32 AM
Editorial: Why Windows 8 Tablets Will Beat the Odds, be a Winner
December 1, 2011, 8:05 PM
Why Microsoft Killed Courier: The Cliffs Notes Version
November 3, 2011, 10:47 AM
Microsoft Shows Off Metro-themed Windows 8 for Tablets
June 1, 2011, 8:18 PM
Microsoft Board to Ballmer: We've Got Your Back
May 27, 2011, 10:31 AM
WhatsUp with WhatsApp?
August 29, 2016, 5:23 AM
Fuchsia – Google’s New Open Source Operating System
August 17, 2016, 6:30 AM
Windows 10: End of an Era & A New Beginning
August 1, 2016, 9:59 AM
Free Windows 10 offer ends July 29th, 2016: 10 Reasons to Upgrade Immediately
July 22, 2016, 9:19 PM
Quick Note: Whoops, Microsoft Pushed Unwanted Windows 10 to Some Users
October 15, 2015, 9:04 PM
Quick Note: Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 10565 Fixes Boot Camp 6.0 Issues
October 13, 2015, 11:39 AM
Most Popular Articles
Kobo Aura One Vs Kindle Paperwhite
January 10, 2017, 1:21 AM
New at CES 2017 - Changhong 8K Super Slim TV 65ZHQ3R
January 8, 2017, 1:07 AM
OPPO R9 – The Smartphone with Excellent Camera and Long Battery Life
January 12, 2017, 12:01 AM
Are you in the market for a private antenna?
January 11, 2017, 12:01 AM
Comparison: Xiaomi Mi Mix Vs. HTC U Ultra
January 14, 2017, 12:10 AM
Latest Blog Posts
Jan 17, 2017, 12:16 AM
News of the Day
Jan 16, 2017, 12:10 PM
News and Technology Advancement
Jan 16, 2017, 7:58 AM
Jan 15, 2017, 12:32 AM
Here is Some News
Jan 14, 2017, 12:39 AM
News: Improved and New products
Jan 13, 2017, 12:01 AM
News around the world
Jan 12, 2017, 12:01 AM
Rumors and Announcements
Jan 11, 2017, 12:01 AM
This year CES and ridiculous gadgets
Jan 10, 2017, 12:01 AM
Nokia Android phone spurns the west.
Jan 9, 2017, 12:08 AM
New at CES 2017 - Changhong 8K Super Slim TV 65ZHQ3R
Jan 8, 2017, 1:07 AM
Debuted at CES 2017 - Vuzix Blade 3000 Smart Sunglasses
Jan 8, 2017, 12:39 AM
Some news of Day
Jan 7, 2017, 12:01 AM
News 2017 CES
Jan 6, 2017, 12:01 AM
Here is the Latest News in Tech
Jan 5, 2017, 1:47 AM
AI Beats World’s Best at Chinese board game “Go”
Jan 4, 2017, 11:21 AM
Las Vegas 2017 CES
Jan 3, 2017, 12:01 AM
News of Jan 2nd 2017
Jan 2, 2017, 4:40 AM
Wishing you all, the New Year brings the light of hope, joy, success, and Happy, Happy New Year.
Jan 1, 2017, 1:48 AM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2017 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information