Microsoft's man in charge of creating Windows 8, Steven Sinofsky, was fired today! Is it because Windows 8 sucks so bad? - Brian Madden - BrianMadden.com
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Microsoft's man in charge of creating Windows 8, Steven Sinofsky, was fired today! Is it because Windows 8 sucks so bad?

Written on Nov 13 2012
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22,498 views, 10 comments


by Brian Madden

The Internet lit up last night with the news that Microsoft's head of Windows Steven Sinofsky has left the company, effective immediately, according to a company-wide email sent by CEO Steve Ballmer. (Business Insider, AllThingsD, TechCrunch) Should we be sad because this is a huge loss for Microsoft? Or should we be happy because Windows 8 is a crazy disaster and now this guy is gone?

The official company line is that the decision was mutual, though as MG Siegler points out on TechCrunch, a person whom everyone thinks was going to be the next CEO of a company doesn't up and quit, effective immediately, on a random Monday night. One thing we know for sure is Microsoft's board of directors wasn't happy with Sinofsky, awarding him (and Ballmer) less than their full bonus target due to Windows sales declines, problems with the Windows team being able to comply with a 2009 European Commission agreement regarding browser choice, and the lack of luster in the Windows smart phone market share. Is it possible that the sales and reviews of Windows 8 have been so bad in the first few weeks that he's out already?

If you've never heard of Sinofsky, Business Insider ran a detailed profile of him earlier this year. He ran the Windows group for almost four years and has been hailed for turning it around after the Vista debacle, though many also claim he's hard to work with, super secretive, and lacks the vision to lead Microsoft. What's interesting about every single profile you read about Sinofsky is they link the success of his career at Microsoft to the success of Windows 8. When talking about the next CEO, Business Insider wrote, "Unless Windows 8 is a disaster, Sinofsky is probably next in line."

Is Windows 8 really a disaster?

Yes.

If you look at Windows 8 purely in terms of a continuation of Windows 7—a desktop OS meant to run desktop applications on traditional keyboard & mouse-driven desktops and laptops—in that case it isn't too bad. Not good, but not bad. Nothing really ground-breaking… more like a nice service pack and light freshening for Windows 7. If Microsoft had stopped there we'd probably all update to it and think nothing of it. Unfortunately they didn't stop there and we have a version of Windows with several major problems:

  • "Touch mode" and "desktop mode" are not integrated, rather, they're side-by-side. Rather than combining a tablet and a laptop, it's like they bolted a tablet to a laptop. And they share a battery. And a screen.
  • Thin and light tablets have ARM processors, but ARM can't run existing Windows desktop apps. But the whole point of using Windows for a tablet is so it can run existing apps, so…???
  • Microsoft claims Intel architecture tablets can be thin and light too, but those use Intel Atom processors which have benchmark ratings of about 1/5th of normal mobile processors. So any regular Windows desktop apps (again, the whole reason for using Windows in the first place) run like shit.
  • Windows 8 is sold as "post desktop" touch-based modern OS, but today's desktop apps don't magically become touch-friendly on Windows 8.
  • Windows Phone 8 is a different OS than the ARM-based Windows RT which is different than Intel architecture Windows 8.
  • Microsoft forces everyone to use the touch-based tile world interface, even if you have a non-touch computer with a keyboard and mouse.
  • Microsoft is trying to build a single OS for people who want to only carry one device, but people have shown that they they want to use a tablet for tablet-based activities, and a laptop for laptop-based activities
  • Microsoft decided to build their own tablets (The Surface models), screwing their hardware partners in the process. That will come back to bite them.
  • Brand confusion like crazy. So there's Windows 8, with desktop mode and Windows 8 applications. Then there's Windows RT, which is NOT Windows 8, but which can run Windows 8 applications that are compiled for it. It also has a desktop mode, but it cannot run Windows desktop applications. Then of course we have Surface and Surface Pro, which are actually two totally different devices running different OSes, but both marketed interchangeably on surface.com.
  • There's no touch mode version of Office. Maybe that's a critique for the Office team, but come on! How can Microsoft encourage everyone to rewrite all their apps for touch when Microsoft themselves couldn't even do it?

Seriously, you can't make this stuff up!

Tomorrow I'm going to write an article detailing all these reasons that Windows 8 is a huge disaster. But today I'm more interested in Sinofsky being fired. What do you make of it?

 
 




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MikaelGronfelt wrote re: Microsoft's man in charge of creating Windows 8, Steven Sinofsky, was fired today! Is it because Windows 8 sucks so bad?
on Tue, Nov 13 2012 10:02 AM Link To This Comment

I somewhat agree with the criticism, but not the conclusion that this automatically makes Win 8 a disaster. It's still a good OS (at least on the computer), despite the confusion.

I think the biggest problem is branding, perhaps MS should have gone for something like "Windows Desktop 8", "Windows RT 8" and "Windows Phone 8". Other than that, different OS implementations in the same famly, for different device classes, really isn't unique.

I mean, iOS is kinda OS X (same kernel and common parts like Cocoa) but you still can't run OS X apps on iOS devices and noone expects to (at least not anymore).

Once we come beyond the initial confusion I think a lot of the dust will settle and many will learn to appreciate the ability to share some (not all, which is important) apps between platforms. Win 8 (the one without Phone or RT trailing behind the name that is) will be able to run legacy apps, which is an absolute necessity in the Win world, while it's still able to share a lot with it's RT and Phone cousins.

Dissapointment about not being able to start Autocad on the RT tablet may still be there, but it's really about how you sell it. Noone expects to be able to run Photoshop on their iPad, still a lot of people seem to find benefits in running OS X-ish OS:es on all of their devices.

The fact that Win RT and Win Phone are not the same may be the same, but then again, it's not to be taken for granted that people really want to run the same OS on a tablet and a phone, since people generally don't give a damn about OSs, they just want a similar user experience. And who's to say that iPad wouldn't have been an even better tablet with a tablet OS instead of an OS that just happens to work pretty good on a tablet to?

Just look at Android, it's first iterations on the tablet were pretty bad and I think most people didn't see any benefits from running the same OS on a tablet and a phone, they just wanted a good phone and a good tablet, and thus chose to go with an android phone and an Apple tablet in many cases. Despite different architectures.

appdetective wrote re: Microsoft's man in charge of creating Windows 8, Steven Sinofsky, was fired today! Is it because Windows 8 sucks so bad?
on Tue, Nov 13 2012 10:54 AM Link To This Comment

Sinofsky deserves a ton of credit for breaking the back of many aholes in the Windows team that created Vista and bringing things back in order on the core OS. More of this is needed across microsoft to get stupid crap fixed and just done. Sure Windows 8 is confusing, but it's a first step and represents a different approach to Apple fanboys who will also be bit in the ass now that people like Scott Forstall have also been forced out.

All this talk about happy clappy concensus is all BS. It will be so hard in huge companies like MS and Apple to pull if off. Both these firms need people who can force the change that is needed along the way. Break the balls of the useless middle level manager/politicians who are incompetent and move forward faster. If there is one criticism is that he never came across as an innovator that could inspire people with his ideas. So the ball busting tipped the balance the wrong way for him. That's what job had, the vision MS really has no one and people who did like Ozzie are also gone.

The real issue that's not talked about however is Ballmer. The MS stock price has been almost flat for 10 years, all their 2012 gains are already gone. Ballmer ultimately has to be held accountable for what he has allowed to happen. If holiday sales for Surface/phone/windows 8 suck he's fired his fall guy. This f'ing suck for that represents what corporations are all about. Firing the wrong people who actually made change vs. those in power who are about self preservation. The MS board needs to grow a pair of balls and quickly identify a replacement for Ballmer and ensure that a happy clappy way of doing not much in the name of consensus that will lead to nothing but infighting does not become the new microsoft.

As much as hate microsoft for so many things, I've spent so many years working with their products. A stronger innovative Microsoft is needed to counter the happy Apple juice that people are blindly drinking. Microsoft is trusted by many enterprises to do a lot and they are well positioned to help enterprises deal with the new wave of computing. However that I bet will need leaders who are allowed to innovate, fail sometimes and a culture will be needed that spits out aholes who are just block progress due to motivation by self preservation.

So come on Microsoft, do something bold, I am tired of Apple happy juice and people just bashing everything you do. Have an opinion of the world and keep going, we need an angry giant swinging so we all benefit!

Alexander Petrovskiy wrote re: Microsoft's man in charge of creating Windows 8, Steven Sinofsky, was fired today! Is it because Windows 8 sucks so bad?
on Tue, Nov 13 2012 11:52 AM Link To This Comment

Windows 8 is a next (even gradual) step of client OS evolution. It is shipped with PowerShell 3.0, re-newed network functionality and RSAT.

From a programmer's perspective, it's also a step forward. And brand-new Visual Studio is here.

superhumanben wrote re: Microsoft's man in charge of creating Windows 8, Steven Sinofsky, was fired today! Is it because Windows 8 sucks so bad?
on Tue, Nov 13 2012 12:15 PM Link To This Comment

While I understand and agree with a lot of the frustrations with Windows 8 I do not understand why everyone gets so up in arms. I really compare Windows 8 to Vista. Before you go and laugh, think about it logically. If Vista had not come out, Windows 7 would have been thought of as the exact same as Vista is now. Vista was a gradual change away from what everyone had known to a new way of doing things (visually and contextually in some ways). Windows 8 is essentially Vista version 2.0.

Touch proliferation in the market is just not there yet however. There is nothing in Windows 8 that I have run into that fails to work if you do not have touch. I will say however that the mouse keyboard functionality does feel rather clunky in comparison to how easy touch WOULD be.

Scott Dowdle wrote re: Microsoft's man in charge of creating Windows 8, Steven Sinofsky, was fired today! Is it because Windows 8 sucks so bad?
on Tue, Nov 13 2012 2:54 PM Link To This Comment

Apple went about this by making mobile devices with their own OSes that became very popular... and then they have been gradually mutating Mac OS X on the desktop with their mobile OS features.

Since Microsoft is king of the desktop, and has done poorly in the mobile space thus far, they are approaching it differently.  They are changing their desktop OS to be more touch-enabled to hopefully shoehorn users from the desktop to mobile devices running their mobile OS.

Ideally both Apple and Microsoft are trying to make one platform each that works equally well on all devices.

I think Microsoft decided to start making their own tablets (and yeah, rumor is they have phones coming out too) because none of the hardware vendors were that excited about helping Microsoft on their one-OS-for-everything journey... and also Apple has done a good job of selling the whole concept of the integrated stack... and the ultimate lock-in that can be achieved if you control both the hardware and the software.  Microsoft lusts after the hardware profits Apple is getting... and they definitely like the concept of getting 30% of all software purchase on their platform.

I know I'm stating the obvious.

Windows 8, being what it is, isn't so bad... given the approach and the direction.  It just takes a while to grow on you.  How long?  Well, as a Linux user it took about 1.5 years before GNOME 3 grew on me.  Canonical has had major fallout with Unity... but it seems like they are also starting to turn a corner with Unity as I'm noticing more people blogging about how they used to totally hate it but now they like it... since it has matured and developed over time.

If Microsoft fired Sinofsky because of Windows 8 then Microsoft is in a world of hurt.  That would mean that they are having second thoughts about their entire strategy which I find hard to believe.  If Sinofsky was fired I think it was for a combination of things personal and professional... and not strictly over Windows 8.  I have faith that Microsoft will stick with Windows 8 for the foreseeable future... and if they can't turn it around within a year or two, they'll have a new product out that replaces it.  Calling it quits now would make no sense at all.

Tony wrote re: Microsoft's man in charge of creating Windows 8, Steven Sinofsky, was fired today! Is it because Windows 8 sucks so bad?
on Tue, Nov 13 2012 5:52 PM Link To This Comment

While I agree with most of the points, I actually like Windows 8.  There is about a 4 hour learning curve and I think it works really well on a touch device.  IMO the key to Windows 8 success with be apps and the MS app store.  Native Windows 8 apps run rather well with touch, or a mouse and keyboard.  It's the legacy desktop apps and flipping between the two that suck.  But hey the Apple AppStore and Android App store sucked at first too.  However, the Surface was a terrible idea, and it's getting crappy reviews as well.  MS should of left the devices to the partners.  Again, disclaimer - Dell employee.  We went Atom instead of ARM for our tablet devices and the preliminary feedback has been very good.

MikaelGronfelt wrote re: Microsoft's man in charge of creating Windows 8, Steven Sinofsky, was fired today! Is it because Windows 8 sucks so bad?
on Wed, Nov 14 2012 2:36 AM Link To This Comment

I can't really decide what to think of MS making its own hardware. Of course, this is a really big step away from the traditional notion of MS providing software and others making hardware and by that it's bound to piss hardware vendors off.

On the other hand I think that an important step in getting some leverage for the W8 platform (specifically mobile devices) is to create some sort of signature units. Pretty much like Google has done with Nexus, or more obvious, as Apple has done with its line of hardware.

Traditionally HW vendors have produced very fine hardware to run Win, but they're all suffering from acting in a crowded marketspace. It doesn't matter if a Dell, Sony or HP is just as good as a Macbook, it's still just a "Dell XYZ something" or "HP 123 whatever" as compared to being THE Macbook.

My guess is that this is recognized by MS and that the conclusion is that if the new W8 lineup is going to compete with THE iPad (and in some sense THE Nexus) it is going to need THE Surface.

As far as I've seen, Surface RT is mainly getting whacked in the press because it's a Win RT device, meaning that there's no native apps to talk about and that it has a legacy desktop that can't run legacy apps. Those are all fine arguments, that will hopefully change over time, but most reviewer still seems to think that Surface is a really neat piece of hardware. And perhaps that's what's needed: a neat piece of hardware that's not another anonymous Dell or HP, but rather a signature device for the Win ecosystem.

Allan Harder wrote re: Microsoft's man in charge of creating Windows 8, Steven Sinofsky, was fired today! Is it because Windows 8 sucks so bad?
on Wed, Nov 14 2012 9:54 AM Link To This Comment

For the most part I agree with all your points on how Windows 8 could be better, but I think you are overstating when your title states, "Windows 8 sucks so bad".  

After using Windows 8 for a couple of weeks, I have no desire to go back to Windows 7. I may not love it unconditionally, but I really, really like it a lot.

One of the glaring misfortunes is that no Office 2013 apps utilize Live Tiles on installation.

Microsoft took several steps in the right direction with Windows 8. What is hurting them is the poor integration between "desktop" apps and the new UI (yes, even new ones like Office 2013).  I am speculating that Sinofsky's departure had something to do with the lack of synergy between these worlds.

No one likes a half-baked attempt, but in a year the hardware and ISV developers will catch up to what the Windows Desktop/RT/Phone 8 experience is all about. Windows 8 is a forward-thinking concept. Give the world some time to catch up.

Simon Bramfitt wrote re: Microsoft's man in charge of creating Windows 8, Steven Sinofsky, was fired today! Is it because Windows 8 sucks so bad?
on Wed, Nov 14 2012 11:41 PM Link To This Comment

Hell has frozen over, I agree with appdetective on something.

I'm just going outside and may be some time.

BETAZERO wrote re: Microsoft's man in charge of creating Windows 8, Steven Sinofsky, was fired today! Is it because Windows 8 sucks so bad?
on Thu, Nov 15 2012 4:41 PM Link To This Comment

I can not do it. Had to uninstall Windows 8. I have a pen based tablet PC that it really is not good on and I had it on my Mac under Fusion which I have to dump Windows 8 on. They need to either lose the user customization and come up with something nice or fix it so you can actually customize it and it looks good. Colors that work good in desktop look horrible in "start-top"... They dumped the Aero glass for some reason and it just looks crappy. It looks like Windows 7 with a bad video card that does not support Aero. I wont even talk about the fundamental problems like the start button and horizontal scrolling and the apps that open IE to view a picture ... Its just wrong in so many ways... thank GOD I have Apple computers running OSX. Microsoft needs to come out with Windows 9 like yesterday or people will be running to OSX which feels alot more like Windows 7 than Windows 8 does... loll What they should do is loose all the duel app crap. IE should be IE if your in desktop or start-top. Its just weird to have two versions of the same app....To be honest I do not know how they can fix it. If they really want to move forward with the box idea  they need to loose the desktop all together. Or they need to go back to Windows 7 and just clean it up and put the start-top as the wallpaper in desktop or something....Its funny that my tablet is harder to use with windows 8 than 7...was it not made for that kind of computer ??? lol

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