back to article Ballmer comes not to praise Sinofsky but to bury him

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's staff memo following Steven Sinofsky's departure isn't exactly awash with praise for a man once tipped for the software giant's throne. The world of Microsoft was turned upside down by Windows 8 chief Sinofsky's sudden exit just three weeks after the launch of the new operating system. Rather than …


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  1. Carl
    Thumb Down

    i would believe a word...

    ...uttered by anyone from this pit of vipers.

    Allow me to translate:

    Sinofksy: "I've made my 10M and now I'm outta here. Up yours."

    Ballmer: "Don't let the door hit you on the arse on the way out."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: i would believe a word...

      Or someone was seeing someone else's wife?

      Well there is a reason for everything is there not?

      1. Levente Szileszky

        Re: i would believe a word...

        You're confused, that's another story, about our generals in the Pentagon.

  2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Nothing to see here

    Much as I'd like to sit back with popcorn and watch some skull-duggery, I have to say there's nothing in the two letters to support the conspiracy theorists.

    Sinofsky has probably gone about as far within Microsoft as he can without displacing Ballmer. He probably reckons that isn't likely. He is probably financially secure for life. If he stays at MS, he will either a sideways move or be stuck maintaining his Win8 creation. It seems perfectly possible that these two prospects have given him itchy feet. It would be odd if a man with his background *didn't* have a whole pile of ideas that have been accumulating in his head these last twenty years, always being placed on the back-burner because the day-job was taking his full attention.

    Ballmer needs to establish the new management team as quickly as possible, so he is brief about Sinosky and concentrates on the merits of his successor. You could also argue that this is just basic politeness.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nothing to see here

      "Sinofsky has probably gone about as far within Microsoft as he can without displacing Ballmer."


      This looks more like Ballmer removing a potential replacement to buy him some more time in a job he is obviously not up to. Microsoft still has some great stuff and some great potential opportunities, but I don't see Ballmer capitalizing on any of them. Bill Gates came across as someone with a vision and undoubtedly had some charisma, and even though some might question his business ethics, his humanitarian work speaks for itself. Ballmer just comes across as an angry, shouty idiot who is way out of his depth.

      1. The Serpent

        Re: Nothing to see here

        "Bill Gates came across as someone with a vision and undoubtedly had some charisma"

        He always came across to me as someone who was at best as wrong as he was right and that most of his success came as a result of being in the right place at the right time.

        "even though some might question his business ethics, his humanitarian work speaks for itself."

        Does the end justify the means? I'm not sure the stakes have ever been higher for that particular question.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nothing to see here

          "Does the end justify the means? I'm not sure the stakes have ever been higher for that particular question."

          Means: Holding back OS and web browser development by a few years due to monopolistic business practices.

          Ends: Setting up the largest transparently operated charitable foundation in the world. Giving out over $27 billion as of 2007. Funding research to find a malaria vaccine when very few people in the West were interested. Funding research into fast neutron reactors in an attempt to provide humanity with a clean and reliable post-hydrocarbon energy supply.

          I think the answer to your question is yes, always yes.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nothing to see here

        Bill Gates came across as someone with a vision and undoubtedly had some charisma, and even though some might question his business ethics, his humanitarian work speaks for itself.

        Oh dear. Where do I begin..

        - vision: yes. At all costs, law and ethics be damned. As a matter of fact I think you can blame Gates as the primary driver behind all the ethics failures afterwards, because he sure showed the way of how you could ignore the law and abandon ethics and still be heralded as a hero. We would probably quite a few years further in computing if it wasn't for Gates.

        - charisma: What? Where? If Gates had one thing, it was an aura of something disturbing, something shifty, something not-quite-right. The only way you can claim for Gates to have charisma is if you compare him with Ballmer, which is why Ballmer was an excellent right hand man for Gates.

        - "some" might question his business ethics: are there any that didn't? The man has faced quite a lot of government scrutiny, and in some cases the company was found guilty of flat out theft (Stacker is a good example of Microsoft's view of "collaboration" was). This is partially why the market stagnated: nobody was prepared to risk going live with a new idea and then spending years being bled dry in court while MS copied and stifled the originator. Netscape is another good example, or destroying the ISO institute to establish OOXML as a ratified standard that still isn't (properly -correctly, non bribed- ratified, or a standard).

        - his humanitarian work speaks for itself: yes, but not in the way you think. It's tapering off now, but Billie boy was only "helping" where it was going to help himself. Want some funding, Mr Head of Poor Country? Buy Microsoft.

        Ballmer just comes across as an angry, shouty idiot who is way out of his depth.

        Yup, that's why he made such a good number 2. It's a bit like Gordon Brown after Tony Blair in the UK, only Ballmer adds the mistaken belief he has charisma, about the only mistake Gordon Brown did NOT make. If SHAREHOLDERS had any control, they would have ditched Ballmer and kept on Sinofsky, because he could at least come up with an original idea and see it through. Ballmer is useless, and has simply been coasting on the work of others.

        Anyway, I see this as good news for Apple. MS management has with this sent a message that innovation is not important, that gives Apple a chance to catch up and find again someone who has a strong opinion. They too are coasting a bit.

        1. Levente Szileszky
          Thumb Up

          Re: Nothing to see here

          Well said, AC, well said.

          I was saying the same thing for a looong time - Billo' was at least imaginative but yes, he was the archetype of the proverbial privileged rich kid who grew up as protected as possible, never learned to respect the rules, only bending them so obviously he became a sleazy, rotten, crooked scumbag. But a scumbag he is, he *always* had a vision - something Ballmer, this arrogant beancounter never had, never will, period.

          Ballmer should've been fired LOOONG time ago but the boiard never had balls - now that he is on track for a HUGE fuckup (Are you kidding? W8? Tablets? WinPhone? Bing?) finally his days are numbered, I give hime 18-24 months before the search for a replacement will start... it will be a long road but at least it's a start.

          As for humanitarian action, yes, Billo is doing a LOT of good but it's also true that he is only doing it in a way that makes HIM money as well eg PUSHING the killer products of Monsanto, the second-most-evil company on the world (1st is clearly Government Sachs, no competition) into Africa, forcing poor countries to build their economy on LICENSING SEEDS instead of using free crops they can save for next year (illegal by Monsanto's standard!) while heavily investing in Monsanto... pretty disgusting but hey, he is an old dog, he cannot learn any new ways of doing tricks, once a scumbag always a scumbag, only the scale/ratio changes. :)

          Nobody has charisma at MSFT, it's simply impossible or you will get knifed in the back quickly - the whole place is run like a thoroughly disgusting snake pit, anyone does not know this MUST READ Vanity Fair's incredibly well-written and now-infamous August article about Microsoft and Ballmer's lost decade, its destructive, creativity-killing internal culture where people pitted against each other instead of collaborating on things etc:

      3. toadwarrior
        Thumb Down

        Re: Nothing to see here

        Yes, it's not like his charity would ever harm people in any way.,0,2533850.story

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nothing to see here

          All charities harm people in some way, at least the Gates foundation publishes where its money is invested. They considered investing in less harmful industries but rationalised that such investment in harmful industries was going to happen anyway, so the charity may as well get as much return on its money as possible in order to help as many people as possible. Owning stock in such companies allows them to have a say on the policy decisions of that company, hopefully reducing the harm caused.

          If you want to see real harm, go look at Oxfam and Christian Aid.

    2. Arctic fox
      Thumb Up

      @Ken Hagen RE "Nothing to see here". You do know that sober, reflective and well argued..

      ...posts are not allowed on certain threads, amongst them being any thread connected to an issue involving MS? More seriously, I agree with you. For whatever reason he has concluded that further advance within MS is unlikely. For a man like Sinofsky that is more than enough reason to look around for pastures new without Ballmer having to send the boys round - much as some here would love to believe that type of version of events.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nothing to see here

      I ran across an interesting analysis from Mary Jo Foley on the matter, which implied Sinofsky and Ballmer did not see eye to eye regarding an upcoming reorg, and possibly his place in the new Blue Windows model coming for Windows 9 and beyond.

      It's much less dramatic of a story than [Ballmer knifes another potential successor] but these matters typically are much more mundane than we might like to believe.

      1. kb

        Re: Nothing to see here

        Here let me give a more accurate translation "Windows 8 has BOMBED, we spent 2 billion and only sold 4 million, even when pricing it at a lousy $40 a copy, and since the board is breathing down my neck to give up my comfy chair somebody had to go and it sure as hell wasn't gonna be me" Steve Ballmer.

        I'm sorry to all the Win 8 apologists but when you spend 2 BILLION on a launch and can only get 4 MILLION sold, even when you are practically giving the product away at less than a third of your normal price? its a flop. To use a car analogy what MSFT did was replace the steering wheel with a bike's handlebars and said "Its new, you're a Luddite if you don't embrace the new hotness!" while ignoring the simple fact that ITS NOT AN IMPROVEMENT because something that works well on one form factor, be it tablets or bikes, does not magically work better if you jam it onto a completely different device with a different purpose!

        What Sinofsky did was tell the planet "We don't care if its a recession, throw away your nice flat panel monitor and spend crazy money on a touchscreen you don't want, because that's all we care about now, touchscreens" and naturally it failed, I mean who thought it wouldn't? hell 98% of the PCs sold NOW don't come with a touchscreen, not to mention those hundreds of millions of PCs sold in the last 5 years MSFT wanted to upgrade.

        So somebody had to fall on the sword to save the sweaty one for one more release, and it was Sinofsky. I predict that either Win 9 will be Win 7, a real desktop with some bling to get people to buy, or ballmer will be out the door, one of the two. the man has blown over 30 billion in the past decade on plans that haven't even broke even, much less made a profit, and with Windows sales tanking the board has GOT to be seriously pissed right about now. So long Sinofsky, enjoy your money, shame you had to take one for the team instead of taking Forbe's worst CEO down with ya.

    4. Hi Wreck

      Re: Nothing to see here

      Sinofsky has probably gone about as far within Microsoft as he can without displacing Ballmer. He probably reckons that isn't likely.

      Perhaps he knows of an opening at Nokia? (or RIM?)

    5. Blitterbug

      Re: Nothing to see here

      All well and good. But you're forgetting the 'with immediate effect' bit of the original announcement from MS. As a highly respected engineer, whether you are an MS fan or not he turned things around after the Vista fiasco (which eventually gained acceptable performance after 2 SPs).

      My money is on him not being the world's greatest fan of Metro. I'd imagine he had one too many 'meetings' with Monkey Boy over the horrific press reports and blogs. Maybe even had a chair tossed at him. Seems someone else has inherited St Jobs' reality distortion field now...

    6. druck Silver badge

      Re: Nothing to see here

      Sinofsky is off now to Elop some other poor company for a couple of years, and will be back to take over the CEO role when the board have finally had enough of Ballmer.

  3. Phil W

    I'm sure it was his own idea....

    He's not stupid, he knows that within the next 6 months the backlash from all the f*** ups in Windows 8 will come back to bite Microsoft so he's getting gone now before he gets tarnished too badly.

    The number of utterly ridiculous cock ups I've come across in Windows 8 is rising rapidly, and frankly incredibly annoying as I know it's a product I'm going to have to work with.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm sure it was his own idea....

      genuinely intrigued What have you found with it so far?

      1. Phil W

        Re: I'm sure it was his own idea....

        2 most ridiculous ones are:

        1. Windows Media Center is unavailable to volume license customers. The currently free Pro upgrade pack keys do can't be used with VL versions of Windows 8 Pro, and Microsoft are giving no response to anyone on why this is so or how VL customers can get Windows Media Center. They won't even confirm that it's unavailable to VL customers as such, all you get is a statement that the offer on the website isn't available to VL customers.

        2. There is a group policy item, related to the Start Menu, which if set to enabled breaks "Metro" in such a way as to remove all apps and tiles from it, and prevents you adding any. This error is not documented anywhere, and I only found it by trial and error and educated guess work. Microsoft have yet to provide any explanation or solution, the only way around is to turn the policy off or create some kind of filter to stop it applying to Windows 8 machines.

        There's also an issue, though more a change of design than a cock up, where you can't set applications to run on start up as you used to. Placing them in the Startup folder in the Start Menu folder, does nothing. The only way to do this (excluding group policy as this is for myself in a home environment) is to create a scheduled task that runs at user logon, but as far as I'm aware this is global and can't be done per user.

        1. Colin Millar

          Re: I'm sure it was his own idea....@ Phil

          Not being able to run scheduled tasks per user sounds like a pretty big fail too

        2. Paul Shirley

          Re: I'm sure it was his own idea....

          "Placing them in the Startup folder in the Start Menu folder, does nothing"

          I think it silently blocks any app that would give a UAC prompt - so SpeedFan won't run but Thunderbird does. But I agree it's incompetently done. More annoying is the number of context menus (send to/open with/viewers) that no longer work. That is a PIA. Drag'n'drop seems flaky as well.

          A couple of my daily annoyances:

          I like file explorer views to show what's in the folder NOW, not what was in it when it first opened

          I'd like refresh in a folder pane to work. I'd like it to always work in the file pane as well.

          I'd like explorer to stop holding files I'm deleting open, blocking the deletion!

          stop closing the fscking explorer window if I disconnect a USB mounted phone

          If desktop can XP theme window decoration in compatibility mode, has fine grained colour customisation in high contrast mode, fine grained UI control out of HC mode - WTF can't I use all those features all the time?

          1. Blitterbug

            Re:@ Paul Shirley

            ...erm, I'm not the biggest fan of W8 here, as most peeps know, but the W8 desktop is fine in my experience, and I have hammered it extensively in real-world (eg out-and-about on site) use, largely featuring heavy drag&drop usage. I think there was an odd contention problem one time during a bulk copy that made me scratch my head. Not seen it since. Maybe a bug, but not a massive one...?

            Folders not updating in real time? I don't get this. It's the same as W7, which sometimes had minor issues with refreshing network folders, but you don't say if that's the case here.

            You're upset because Explorer closes the window for your phone contents when you unplug the phone? Seriously? Like every other version of Windows?

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'm sure it was his own idea....

          "There is a group policy item, related to the Start Menu, which if set to enabled breaks "Metro" in such a way as to remove all apps and tiles from it, and prevents you adding any. This error is not documented "

          Sounds like half of the capability that most desktop Win 8 users are crying out for (the ones who won't use Classic Shell, that is).

          1. Phil W

            Re: I'm sure it was his own idea....

            Not really, it doesn't log you in straight to desktop or give you any kind menu it simply logs you in and gives you a blank screen of whatever colour scheme you chose.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'm sure it was his own idea....

          Actually, there's a tool that might help, it's called Google, have you heard of it?

          I too had problems trying to get a program to start at login. Using the Task Manager, you can see and deactivate the programs that have insinuated themselves into your system.

          If you want to add a programm for launching automatically, open a command prompt and type:


          This will open a window into which you can drag any shortcuts to apps that you want to start. I'll admit it's a bit complicated, but I guess Microsoft figured no one was using the old system anyway...

          1. Phil W

            Re: I'm sure it was his own idea....

            My Google-Fu is apparantly fail in the case, the scheduled task on login option was all I found.

            So maybe I should of found that, but as you say it's a bit complicated and hardly obvious.

            Addtionally while this does work, because "Metro" is presented at login, the app that runs at login is unseen, which is kind of useless if you want to launch a media center app or something.

            You could use it as a replacement shell instead, but then you don't have explorer.exe running.

  4. jptech

    He didn't want to be fired when the class actions start

    when MS starts getting class actions thrown against it for windows 8 RT, Sinofsky knows it wouldn't be wise to still be around for that.

    And yes, those class actions will start when people realize that RT isn't Windows, but an arm clone which looks the same but just isn't. And MS employees have been misguiding many a user into RT.

  5. kwv-dc

    For Ballmer

    Not matter how you look at it, its really difficult to put the nails into your own coffin, ergo Ballmer's decision re Sinofsky !!!

  6. BigAndos

    Standard Executive career survival mechanism

    At every company I've worked at, senior executives always seem to move on after delivering a truly significant product. It is perfect timing as you can line up your next job based on the freshly minted credential of running a major programme, but any backlash has yet to emerge.

    I've seen it happen time and again, and I think it safe to say Win8 has a high risk of a backlash for reasons us commentards have discussed to death. I guess Sinofsky ran out of sideways moves in MS so time to hit the ejector seat! I'll be watching to see where his parachute landing occurs...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Speculation only on my part -- but here goes: could the IE ballot screen removal in Win 7 SP1 - which is likely to cost Microsoft a billion dollar fine from the EU have anything at all to do with this "personal" decision? Seem like that would land squarely in Sinofsky's lap/

    1. Paul Shirley

      ...I also noticed one of the early Win8 updates was labelled 'IE ballot' and I don't remember seeing it give me a choice of browsers on launch day. Wonder how many of that 4mil upgrades Ballmer claimed were in the EU and installed before the update, how big the fine will be this time.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Paul Shirley

    Hi Paul,

    I appreciate this is massively off topic, but I'm a freelancer for Retro Gamer magazine ( and I was wondering if you got my email asking about your early coding days on the PET 2001? I sent it to a googlemail address which I suspect you may no longer use, but if you did get my message and don't have the time or inclination to reply then I totally understand. I thought I might as well ask here though since you seem to be a regular, cheers, Rory.

  9. Jay Zelos

    "All of the current Windows engineering teams will report into Julie..."

    Is that modern management speak or are they going to shoot her?

  10. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Bravo Bonobo Bombeshells ..... Flagrant Flowers to the Rescue of Failing Powers

    How nice to see obviously smart ladies manning up and doing what is needed.

  11. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Sinofsky, Trotsky ....

    Pretty soon, they all get cut out of the official company photos.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Women in engineering


    While I am all for qualified leadership in all fields irrespective of sex, I think I might have some issues with being an engineer in a software engineering company division being led by a "touchy feely" non-engineer (?) whose claim to fame is heavy involvement in two manifestly unpopular "touchy feely" things (ribbon and Metro) being bolted onto the software.

    I think the MS in general and the Office/windows divisions in particular have lost the plot actually and the focus on "what colour is it" rather than "does it work" is a retrograde step. Interface is critical, but irrelevant if the underlying software is crap.

    The new boss would seem an unlikely person to change this direction, indeed I expect acceleration along the path


  13. Jean-Luc

    An endorsement for Sinofsky

    ... being dissed by Balmer ;-)

    esp. if Julie Larson-Green, his replacement, is the "thinking" brain behind office ribbons and metro UIs.

    What kind of idiot promotes someone whose pet hobby horses have so thoroughly irked a substantial portion of the customer base? *

    * if you're of the opinion that us GUI novelty whiners should just suck it up, good for you. All I am asking is an option to skin the apps using a more reasonable GUI. i.e. an optional menu in Office and an equivalent to Classic Shell.

  14. FordPrefect

    I guess getting rid of anyone that could potentially replace him is one way to try and keep his job ;)

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