Steven Sinofsky's management of Windows ‘controversial'

When Microsoft tasked Steven Sinofsky with getting Vista back on track, and out the door, he did just that. Since then he’s delivered Windows 7 (a solid product) and he and his team are about to deliver Windows RT and Windows 8.

In a detailed profile on the man they’re calling “Mr. Windows 8”, CNET has compiled accounts from multiple executives that have worked with Sinofsky over the years and the picture is certainly interesting.

There’s certainly a lot of respect for Sinofsky, and his track record of delivering products (keep in mind that he only joined the Windows team shortly before Vista launched) and most of the executives have great things to say about Sinofsky and the work he’s done. However, there is concern about Sinofsky’s focus.

Sources claim that as the Windows group has been working harder to make Windows a higher-quality product, they’ve also been collaborating less with other divisions. Even Charlie Kindel (the former GM of Windows Phone) felt that the Windows Phone team was in an “us versus them” situation. This has raised concerns that innovation will be stunted within Microsoft, as departments are soloed off from the Windows team. However, recent efforts like Xbox SmartGlass and Xbox Music show that there’s still a lot cross-product work going on at Microsoft – at least it appears that way from the outside.

According to sources, Sinofsky was also a main opponent of the famous ‘Courier’ tablet, a project that left a lot of people disappointed when it was canned. This project was also the apparent reason that J Allard (of Xbox 360 and Zune fame) left Microsoft.

Regardless of what you think about Microsoft, Windows, or Steven himself – it’s worth reading over CNET’s profile, as it’s full of interesting insights into the management of one of the world’s most significant products.

Source: CNET (via The Verge)

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Final Office 2013 Web Apps now available on SkyDrive [Update]

Next Story

Best Buy halts Lumia 920 pre-orders

58 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

I guess the only good achievement of Sinofsky's is getting rid of piracy in windows.
I guess not even the pirates would want that garbage of OS I'm speeking of metro not the desktop.

IMHO, the main problem with windows 8 is that he added features that nobody asked (and nobody likes). The question is, why?. May be he is pavenmented a touch future but, right now, windows 8 is neither desktop nor tablet but a weird hybrid.

Sinofsky's the draconian guy responsible for all the turmoil in the development division. He "doesn't like" managed code, so Windows div is now setting the direction for dev div, which has been tremendously successful on its own up to this point. It's a shame that we're seeing Microsoft play up severely limited technologies like HTML5/JS and the WinRT API while the future is uncertain, and somewhat dark for powerful and productive tech like .Net and WPF.
Sinofsky's doing important things with the direction of Windows, but he's directing a whole lot od detrimental changes of direction in the development side.

I do admire Sinofsky he has managed to get some great products out, to me after reading the article he seems to add much needed focus to Microsoft, during the 2000's it seemed that Microsoft was using the pasta against the wall technique and throwing everything at the wall and seeing what stuck, this led to loads of services and products which lacked cohesion, some were a success but many were not.

Im not a fan of Windows 8, i have given it a solid trial for a month but im not a fan of the UI. I can see how it will work on tablets but i don't like using it on my PC, i love change but this one is not for me, however this is going slightly off topic.

I think that Sinofsky has brought in cohesion in the Consumer windows space, with the release of a desktop, tablet and mobile phone OS with a uniform UI and operation, i think they have done very well to do this. Some people will compare Sinofsky with Steve Jobs, i would say one of the best quailities of Steve Jobs was his ability to say no, for example if he was still alive i know SJ would have never in a million years allow the new apple maps to be released, i get the feeling that Sinofsky would be the same.

He's doing a great job thus far. Every windows distro has had it's fair share of problems in the beginning and has gotten better over time:

Windows 2000 and XP - Buggy drivers, people didn't like the start menu redesign
Vista - Bugs and Drivers. Need I say more?
Windows 7 - Damaged MP3 files and rendered them useless
Windows 8 - (some) Drivers and buggy Metro apps. People didn't like the new start menu.

Tyler R. said,
He's doing a great job thus far. Every windows distro has had it's fair share of problems in the beginning and has gotten better over time:

Windows 2000 and XP - Buggy drivers, people didn't like the start menu redesign
Vista - Bugs and Drivers. Need I say more?
Windows 7 - Damaged MP3 files and rendered them useless
Windows 8 - (some) Drivers and buggy Metro apps. People didn't like the new start menu.

Well, to be fair, he wasn't involved in Windows before Vista, and only joined Windows team at the end of the Vista development cycle, to make sure it would be deployed, as it was already 2 years behind schedule.

Also, buggy apps is not responsibility of the Windows team, it's of the app dev team.

Tyler R. said,

Windows 7 - Damaged MP3 files and rendered them useless
Windows 8 - (some) Drivers and buggy Metro apps. People didn't like the new start menu.

To be fair, that MP3 bug was caught quickly and fixed in Windows 7's beta.

Also Windows 8's release preview (might have been consumer?) had a sporadic freezing bug that affected a couple of users.

Denis W said,

To be fair, that MP3 bug was caught quickly and fixed in Windows 7's beta.

Also Windows 8's release preview (might have been consumer?) had a sporadic freezing bug that affected a couple of users.

True. Is that windows 8 bug the one that got Steve S. in his keynote?

I read somewhere that Sinofsky drastically reduced the height of the Windows team hierarchy - there are only 3 or 4 levels between him and an intern. Also, he treats everyone with respect and takes feedback from anyone within his team.
I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people disliked him for reducing the power & respect they once had, as well as the number of people they control.

So basically he has all traits that made Steve Jobs a darling of the tech press and now it suddenly bad because we are talking about Microsoft?
/facepalm

BajiRav said,
So basically he has all traits that made Steve Jobs a darling of the tech press and now it suddenly bad because we are talking about Microsoft?
/facepalm

The issue isn't his attitude, it's the end result. His leadership of Office 2007 lead to the biggest overhaul of the Office UI since the original release and while some were critical it was generally seen as a very positive move. Unfortunately Windows 8 is a very different affair, as Metro apps are a clear step backwards in terms of functionality and usability (with the exception of tablets), the restrictions on the Windows Store are patently anti-competitive and the way Metro apps and desktop apps integrate is poor (there is no consistency, it's clunky and unintuitive).

It's also worth noting that Steve Jobs was heavily criticised by members of the public and press.

theyarecomingforyou said,

The issue isn't his attitude, it's the end result. His leadership of Office 2007 lead to the biggest overhaul of the Office UI since the original release and while some were critical it was generally seen as a very positive move. Unfortunately Windows 8 is a very different affair, as Metro apps are a clear step backwards in terms of functionality and usability (with the exception of tablets), the restrictions on the Windows Store are patently anti-competitive and the way Metro apps and desktop apps integrate is poor (there is no consistency, it's clunky and unintuitive).

It's also worth noting that Steve Jobs was heavily criticised by members of the public and press.

It's been said time and time and time and time again but it still hasn't got through to you people... METRO APPS ARE NOT COMPULSORY TO USE. IF YOU DON'T LIKE THEM OR THINK THEY LACK FUNCTIONALITY THEN DON'T USE THEM. The desktop tile is right there, click it and all YOUR problems are gone...

ingramator said,
The desktop tile is right there, click it and all YOUR problems are gone...

That completely ignores the Metroisation of the desktop experience. You want to change network? Metro. Want to shut down your computer? Metro. Want to search for something on the Start Screen? Metro. Want to change the lock screen? Metro. Change the Start Screen background? Metro. Want to play Solitaire? Metro. Play an MP3? Defaults to Metro. Play a video? Defaults to Metro. Bring up the Ctrl-Alt-Del screen? Metro. Open a PDF? Defaults to Metro. Open a photo? Defaults to Metro.

While I still consider the desktop experience to be an improvement over Windows 7 - especially with the new Task Manager, Storage Spaces and multi-monitor improvements - the decision to pursue Metro has come at the expense of the user experience on the desktop. And people are right to be concerned about the monopolistic powerplay with the Windows Store. Do you really think Microsoft is going to look at all the money coming in from the Windows Store and not move Windows in that direction? That's incredibly naive.

theyarecomingforyou said,

That completely ignores the Metroisation of the desktop experience. You want to change network? Metro. Want to shut down your computer? Metro. Want to search for something on the Start Screen? Metro. Want to change the lock screen? Metro. Change the Start Screen background? Metro. Want to play Solitaire? Metro. Play an MP3? Defaults to Metro. Play a video? Defaults to Metro. Bring up the Ctrl-Alt-Del screen? Metro. Open a PDF? Defaults to Metro. Open a photo? Defaults to Metro.

While I still consider the desktop experience to be an improvement over Windows 7 - especially with the new Task Manager, Storage Spaces and multi-monitor improvements - the decision to pursue Metro has come at the expense of the user experience on the desktop. And people are right to be concerned about the monopolistic powerplay with the Windows Store. Do you really think Microsoft is going to look at all the money coming in from the Windows Store and not move Windows in that direction? That's incredibly naive.

You're luck you even got a desktop, Metro and tiles are thew way forward for MS and nothing a few people with attachment issues say will change that
I suggest either getting over it or switching to Linux if you want a never changing UI on your PC

The fact that Sinofsky's team is pushing a new working environment/UI on all desktop PCs, laptops and existing non-tablet devices for no convincing reason and the headache it's causing shows he has no understanding of human computer interaction (HCI), or the importance of backward compatible design of OS features, computer usability, productivity, not giving form priority over function etc. Windows 7 only succeeded because for just one release, Sinofsky maintained continuity on the desktop with the concepts and experience of what Allchin envisioned up to Vista. That coupled with the fact that for Windows 8, REGRESSIONS from Windows 7 are ignored, and all external feedback falls on deaf ears is reason enough to give Windows division to some other leader who is transparent, open to external opinions of customers, giving them what they want and has some vision about usability. The folks in the UX team like Julie Larson Green also need to leave Msft. She is the single person who ruined Office and Windows GUIs completely - wonder what they will give her next - Visual Studio? The Metro style design that very few people like also shows they have no taste in design either. Design of a product has to appeal to as many people as possible to make the product sell maximum. The fact is that Windows 8 is a compromise on the desktop for a mobile market where far more growth is possible for Microsoft's OS business.

MsftGaurav said,
The fact that Sinofsky's team is pushing a new working environment/UI on all desktop PCs, laptops and existing non-tablet devices for no convincing reason and the headache it's causing shows he has no understanding of human computer interaction (HCI), or the importance of backward compatible design of OS features, computer usability, productivity, not giving form priority over function etc. Windows 7 only succeeded because for just one release, Sinofsky maintained continuity on the desktop with the concepts and experience of what Allchin envisioned up to Vista. That coupled with the fact that for Windows 8, REGRESSIONS from Windows 7 are ignored, and all external feedback falls on deaf ears is reason enough to give Windows division to some other leader who is transparent, open to external opinions of customers, giving them what they want and has some vision about usability. The folks in the UX team like Julie Larson Green also need to leave Msft. She is the single person who ruined Office and Windows GUIs completely - wonder what they will give her next - Visual Studio? The Metro style design that very few people like also shows they have no taste in design either. Design of a product has to appeal to as many people as possible to make the product sell maximum. The fact is that Windows 8 is a compromise on the desktop for a mobile market where far more growth is possible for Microsoft's OS business.

Most of this I can agree to, about Julie Larson Green, well idk as I don't know her or her work, so I won't comment on her.

GS:mac

MsftGaurav said,
The fact that Sinofsky's team is pushing a new working environment/UI on all desktop PCs, laptops and existing non-tablet devices for no convincing reason and the headache it's causing shows he has no understanding of human computer interaction (HCI), or the importance of backward compatible design of OS features, computer usability, productivity, not giving form priority over function etc. Windows 7 only succeeded because for just one release, Sinofsky maintained continuity on the desktop with the concepts and experience of what Allchin envisioned up to Vista. That coupled with the fact that for Windows 8, REGRESSIONS from Windows 7 are ignored, and all external feedback falls on deaf ears is reason enough to give Windows division to some other leader who is transparent, open to external opinions of customers, giving them what they want and has some vision about usability. The folks in the UX team like Julie Larson Green also need to leave Msft. She is the single person who ruined Office and Windows GUIs completely - wonder what they will give her next - Visual Studio? The Metro style design that very few people like also shows they have no taste in design either. Design of a product has to appeal to as many people as possible to make the product sell maximum. The fact is that Windows 8 is a compromise on the desktop for a mobile market where far more growth is possible for Microsoft's OS business.

Yep. We should just switch back to the archaic Windows XP interface, as nothing else will apparently suit you.

MsftGaurav said,

Rando crap

If everything about Microsoft and Windows is so bad and ruined why do you have your picture as a Windows 8 Metro Influenced Microsoft logo?

MsftGaurav said,
The Windows 8 fanboys having strokes and heart attacks again as the truth hurts.

I support you. Sadly that I can't defend each one above.

MsftGaurav said,
The Windows 8 fanboys having strokes and heart attacks again as the truth hurts.

You should stop using Windows and use Linux then. They haven't changed UI for the last 15 years. Should appeal to you (just avoid Unity, as the some linux folks seem to hate it as much as you hate Win 8 UI).

MsftGaurav said,
The Windows 8 fanboys having strokes and heart attacks again as the truth hurts.

so accusing others who replied to you as Win8 fanboys and the tongue smiley make what you have said as truth?

sviola said,

You should stop using Windows and use Linux then. They haven't changed UI for the last 15 years. Should appeal to you (just avoid Unity, as the some linux folks seem to hate it as much as you hate Win 8 UI).


Your way of making a point seems a lot like incapability to judge for yourself and instead put good faith and trust into those who "must know best", because they put some research behind their products.

When something doesn't work for an individual, it doesn't.
Good for you if it does for you or if your way of computing hardly gets affected by any change to the UI or general UX, but don't blindly put blame on those who want to maturely state that they are amongst a not very small group of people who just found their daily driving platform to be heading into a direction they cannot favor.

Being silent about it is fanboyish and putting the blinds on.

GS:mac

So there are concerns about less cross-team collaboration, for instance between Windows and Windows Phone? Seems to me that all their products are closer and more unified than ever. It seems like the entire company is basically on the same page.

I find it a strange twist that the guy who pretty much killed the courier as he wouldn't be flexible when it came to the OS for it has now released an OS that looks like it will be great for a tablet

MS have bet almost everything on this new design, good luck! Design changes and it looks like MS are trapped with tiles and the font and the empty space on web pages and in apps.

I hope that the general population like this new look because too bad if they dont.

derekaw said,
MS have bet almost everything on this new design, good luck! Design changes and it looks like MS are trapped with tiles and the font and the empty space on web pages and in apps.

I hope that the general population like this new look because too bad if they dont.


Normal apps and games have no whitepaces? Here this site has more whitepace on the sides then theres is information in the middle ~.~
Google is also a big fan of whitespaces. Only Apple isnt.

primexx said,
I pre-ordered a Surface, but I'd still rather have pre-ordered a Courier.

..., while the rest 99% people would do otherwise....

How do you think MS will be able to make a sustainable business by doing that?
MS needs to focus, a laser-sharp focus. Creating more than one competing products would weaken the focus. Either one must be eliminated.

Well it was Mr Sinofsky who killed off the traditional "Closed Beta" programs at Microsoft. Before him, every version of Windows was tested by a closed group of a few thousands enthusiasts, before getting a public preview. This is something I miss.

TCLN Ryster said,
Well it was Mr Sinofsky who killed off the traditional "Closed Beta" programs at Microsoft. Before him, every version of Windows was tested by a closed group of a few thousands enthusiasts, before getting a public preview. This is something I miss.

That might explain why Win8 rtm is so buggy, even after the roll-up patch which introduced new bugs too.

torrentthief said,

That might explain why Win8 rtm is so buggy, even after the roll-up patch which introduced new bugs too.

Which bugs are you referring too? Been using it since August with no issues so far.

torrentthief said,

That might explain why Win8 rtm is so buggy, even after the roll-up patch which introduced new bugs too.

While I miss the betas and think killing them off was a mistake, I agree with x-byte, the core OS of Windows 8 is as solid as a rock. Some of the metro apps however are a little flaky, but they are not part of the OS.

TCLN Ryster said,

While I miss the betas and think killing them off was a mistake, I agree with x-byte, the core OS of Windows 8 is as solid as a rock. Some of the metro apps however are a little flaky, but they are not part of the OS.

The Developer Preview of Win 8 from last year was basically the replacement of the previous closed beta's. MS would have got far more feedback and data from the millions using the Dev Preview than they would have got from a few thousand users with the closed beta's.

TCLN Ryster said,
Well it was Mr Sinofsky who killed off the traditional "Closed Beta" programs at Microsoft. Before him, every version of Windows was tested by a closed group of a few thousands enthusiasts, before getting a public preview. This is something I miss.

Amen to that.
Being part of the fun back then was awesome.

I remember I was a "little kid" (not literally ;P) when I joined the Longhorn beta and boy... it was like a geek's wet dream back then.
I was so proud and happy, too bad the OS turned out shi*ty compared to the promises.
After SP1 things were rather solid with Vista and I still prefer some cues of it over Windows 7 and especially over 8, but oh well.

GS:mac

TCLN Ryster said,
Well it was Mr Sinofsky who killed off the traditional "Closed Beta" programs at Microsoft. Before him, every version of Windows was tested by a closed group of a few thousands enthusiasts, before getting a public preview. This is something I miss.

So basically because you are not part of the privilege club no more you think it was a mistake? I think the fact that they are able to get greater feedback as a faster time shows how much better the development has gotten. The fact that everyone and their mother can test it and give feedback is part of the reason MS is reacting quicker with implementation and release of the OS. Contrary to someone's else comment above there is less bugs on Windows 8 than it would have been if it was closed.

Glassed Silver said,

I remember I was a "little kid" (not literally ;P) when I joined the Longhorn beta and boy... it was like a geek's wet dream back then.
MSBetas.org by any chance? Think I remember you

The Start Menu bust be a bug! (no, I don't miss it)

x-byte said,
Which bugs are you referring too? Been using it since August with no issues so far.

JustAnotherTechie said,
MSBetas.org by any chance? Think I remember you

Yupp, MSBetas, Microbeta and a bunch of other sites.

Good times, good times.
The Microsoft fan community wasn't dived at all like today and everyone was so happily talking with each other most of the time about what they rave on about most in the upcoming OS and the exciting plans for it.
*sigh*

I just want the community to get along again.

GS:mac

Let's keep in mind that back in the era of closed betas, the amount of build leaks that went about were insane. In addition to that, almost everyone knew what the feature list would (or failed to) be by the time they put out a public pre-release build.

x-byte said,
Which bugs are you referring too? Been using it since August with no issues so far.

I have a couple.
Can't use messaging app on two Win8 PCs on the same LAN even though uPnP is turned on, on my router.

Next one is probably a graphics driver problem, but Windows Media Player crashes every time I try to snap while a video is playing. my current workaround is to pause the video, snap and resume.

There are more little nuances that will be ironed out over the life of the product.

Even with these issues, I won't go back.

I honestly love how anything bad is his fault when really he's just the one chairing meetings, giving presentations and setting the Windows team in a general direction.

ingramator said,
I honestly love how anything bad is his fault when really he's just the one chairing meetings, giving presentations and setting the Windows team in a general direction.

That's not how it works.
Sinofsky is the President of the Windows Division so if it's not right it is his fault.

S_Herbie said,

That's not how it works.
Sinofsky is the President of the Windows Division so if it's not right it is his fault.

Yes, that is the principle, but in reality, he's not the only one responsible, although he's likely the first and quickest to get accounted for.

ingramator didn't seem to be talking about lawful liability, but the general praise or hate that people put on either the team or its leader.

You can have wonderful concepts and a sh*tty team (exaggerating here, to make a point. This is generally speaking), in the end you - even as a project leader - don't have infinite possibilities and sometimes its the few points you lost out on in the voting or when making compromises that make the whole package suck.

Think about the POTUS, he's held accountable by his rivals for EVERYTHING, although it's not fair and we all know that, because we all know that he has to consider the Congress and ramble with the rivals to make laws.
Maybe that was a bad comparison, because there are a lot of differences between a project leader and the POTUS, but the rough concept of "first responsible, just one amongst many to judge on concepts" stays about the same.

GS:mac

He may not be the only one responsible but he has overall accountability for the product.
It is true that he may not be consulted or even informed about every little detail but he still has overall responsibility.
It it up to him to make sure that everything happens as it should - this will be carried out in a hierarchy of his underlings but the buck has to stop somewhere.

Glassed Silver said,

Yes, that is the principle, but in reality, he's not the only one responsible, although he's likely the first and quickest to get accounted for.

ingramator didn't seem to be talking about lawful liability, but the general praise or hate that people put on either the team or its leader.

You can have wonderful concepts and a sh*tty team (exaggerating here, to make a point. This is generally speaking), in the end you - even as a project leader - don't have infinite possibilities and sometimes its the few points you lost out on in the voting or when making compromises that make the whole package suck.

Think about the POTUS, he's held accountable by his rivals for EVERYTHING, although it's not fair and we all know that, because we all know that he has to consider the Congress and ramble with the rivals to make laws.
Maybe that was a bad comparison, because there are a lot of differences between a project leader and the POTUS, but the rough concept of "first responsible, just one amongst many to judge on concepts" stays about the same.

GS:mac

Well, if you have a great concept, but a terrible team. It would be the fault of the manager, as it is their responsibility to be able to solve their teams deficiencies (fire people, hire people, acquire resources so their team can accomplish their goals).

Of course, things are not easy, but when things are successful leaders and managers are usually the ones that get the greatest rewards, so it only fair that when things go wrong they take the greatest responsibilities.

ingramator said,
I honestly love how anything bad is his fault when really he's just the one chairing meetings, giving presentations and setting the Windows team in a general direction.

That's the role of a company executive. On the flip side, they're not responsible for the entirety of a company's success, but they are credited with it too. It goes both ways.

He seems to be taking a "Get our core right before x.." approach.

I have got to say I like it (leaving our whether you think Windows 8 is "right" or not >.>)