November 13, 2012 9:52 AM
Did Windows 8's Metro interface cost Steven Sinofsky his job?
Let's be frank. This is a huge shock no matter how Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer spins it as being a natural part of refreshing executive teams from time time time. But two weeks after the guy has launched an operating system overhaul on which the company's future hinges?
Sinofsky’s official role since 2009 has been as Microsoft’s the head of Windows and Windows Live divisions after a career with the company stretching back to 1989.
“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, gushingly, in the official statement put out by Redmond.
That Microsoft is apparently ditching someone so closely identified with Windows 8 since its inception is bound to be seen as an unsubtle comment on the OS’s reception. But does Sinofsky’s departure really imply something negative about Windows 8? Is it possible to blame one man for a piece of software every single Microsoft executive will have had a chance to discuss countless times in the last three years?
Sinofsky was seen by some as being a possible successor to Ballmer himself, whose own reputation is on the line now that Microsoft is no longer as imperious as it once was.
But Windows 8 has had a mixed reception among computer users, with many praising its pragmatic improvements and others expressing frustration at the shoehorning of the Metro touch interface into software that will be used primarily by keyboard-driven users.
This was Sinofsky’s idea based on a belief that tablets - including those running non-Intel chips - should be converged with desktop computing as a way of keeping Windows relevant.
The worry is that some users will simply sidestep the OS completely and buy tablets; Android tablets or the iPad. Personally, on a conventional laptop I find Metro irrelevant and occasionally productivity-sapping. It seems to be there because Microsoft wants it to be there, a way of forcing us into close proximity with a dashboard concept designed for tablets.
What businesses think will ultimately decide its success because that is the sector that generates all of Microsoft’s profits. Many haven't been that impressed.
Sinofsky’s replacement at the head of Windows will be Julie Larson-Green, who joined the company in 1993 and worked on the interface design used in Windows 7 and 8, ironically the one area that has caused the OS some grief.
Expect some of the more radical elements of Windows 8 and Metro (as it is no longer officially called) to be sawn off in the next release. They could start by allowing power users to dim Metro but is the company brave enough to admit it got this wrong?