Microsoft Shaking Up Windows Division Management

    March 22, 2006

According to the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is reorganizing some of its managers, bringing Steve Sinofsky to the Windows Division over from Office, in an attempt to instill the same reliability Office development has on Windows development.

While development of Windows has become more problematic every year since Windows 95 shipped, with dropped features and missed deadlines getting worse, the Office division has been Old Reliable, delivering a new version every two years or so, delivering more features than most people can use, and delivering a product users have confidence in.

The article says that Steve Ballmer feels the need to “instill management rigor” at Microsoft, but the fact that he’s doing so by moving a player from Office to Windows suggests he believes that rigor exists in at least one place in the company. The fact is, no one believes Office 2007 will ship late, and the latest Vista delay either confirms or caused this move.

While Office 2007 is looking like a revolution in UI design, Vista has “some cool stuff”. I like Vista, and I think its worth upgrading to. I think many of the features are great, and you much more than get your bang for your buck. However, I don’t think anything in Vista so far shows a willingness to think outside the box, that anyone even tried to think up something so risky and crazy like the Office Ribbon is.

I’m not saying the Windows division is doing a bad job either. The work they’re doing compared to the work being done in 2003 is a huge improvement. But I’m not arguing with the need for a few shakeups.

I know Microsoft doesn’t want to shoot themselves in the foot, but maybe for Vienna, they might want to move the Office UI team over to Windows, or at least cannibalize a few members. There are a million things you can do with an operating system, and I’d like to see someone new give it a shot.

Mary Jo Foley says that they are, in essence, doing exactly what Mini-Microsoft is asking for (“Fire the leadership now!”). She says Sinofsky would take over when Jim Allchin leaves retires, which is when Vista ships.

She has two very different quotes:

“Steven Sinofsky has established a very solid track record for substantive, timely, and very successful products, over several releases of Office, and it’s logical for Microsoft to shift him to Windows as the Office 2007 development cycle winds down,” said Peter O’Kelly, an analyst with The Burton Group.

“Does he (Sinofsky) has history as a Windows guy?” asked one Microsoft partner, who asked not to be named. “To guide the development of windows you need to have a very firm grounding in OS (operating system) architecture. At least he knows the corporate landscape really well.”

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Nathan Weinberg writes the popular InsideGoogle blog, offering the latest news and insights about Google and search engines.

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