The big tech news last night was that Steven Sinofsky was fired from Microsoft ((Ballmer notes that it is Sinofsky “leaving” which is a nice way of saying that he was told to resign or be fired.)) — Sinofsky was the head of Windows and the man in charge of Windows 8. Naturally, tech blogs exploded drawing parallels to Cook’s quasi-firing of Scott Forstall, head of iOS at Apple. Other than both companies being competitors (kind of) and both being high-level executives leaving the companies, there aren’t any other similarities between the two — so let’s stop that silliness now.
What’s more interesting about this move for Microsoft is what it means long-term for the company.
I’ve been a long-time proponent of the “shit-can Steve Ballmer” movement and what this move by Ballmer & Co. says to me is: Ballmer is Microsoft’s guy.
Ballmer, in other words, just showed the world that he has 100% backing from Gates and the entire board. This, you could argue, is the closest similarity between Cook and Ballmer that exists.
How many heads are left to roll before we get to Ballmer’s? I’m thinking none.
I’m thinking Ballmer is going down with that ship — so to speak. It’s one thing if Ballmer was scapegoating Sinofsky, but he isn’t. Instead Ballmer simply removed another executive that he felt was:
- Challenging him as CEO.
- He didn’t like for whatever reason.
He did this with the backing of the board.
If the board is even somewhat skeptical about you as CEO of the company, no way they let you fire a CEO-in-waiting type that has been with the company since 1989. No way.
I highly doubt any of this had to do with Windows 8 success/failure, as it hasn’t even been out a month yet — so the results have yet to “come back”. This has likely been in the works for much longer, the timing only happening now because Ballmer wanted to make sure Windows 8 was launched without a hitch — now that it has launched, he didn’t need Sinofsky any longer.
I’ve not met a single rational and intelligent person that thinks Ballmer is on the right track or that he properly guides Microsoft — yet many of those same people say Sinofsky was on the right track.
If you are Ballmer, do you want Sinofsky around? I think not.
Yet the board and Ballmer clearly knew that Sinofsky could be an easy fit for CEO, so again: no way Ballmer could fire him without full support of the board.
Ballmer fired Sinofsky.
We can now infer two things from this:
- Ballmer is fully supported by the Microsoft elites.
- Ballmer is going no where — the Microsoft board won’t bring in an outside CEO and there isn’t a current Microsoft executive that would fit the role at this time.
This was a very bad move for Microsoft and any hope that they were finally seeing the light.