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?
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?