More Microsoft exec departures mark end of a Windows era

With Jon DeVaan and Grant George officially retired and most of rest of Windows 8 team out to pasture, Microsoft silently acknowledges complete lack of faith in Windows 8

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Five years ago, Microsoft Press published a book entitled "How We Test Software at Microsoft," by Alan Page, Ken Johnston, and Bj Rollison. Here's a quote from George, included in that book, that speaks volumes about his mindset:

Tester DNA has to include a natural ability to do systems level thinking, skills in problem decomposition, a passion for quality, and a love of finding out how something works and then how to break it. ... Now that is what makes up a tester that makes them different from a developer. The way we combine that DNA with engineering skills is by testing software. The name we choose should reflect this but also be attractive to the engineers we want to hire. Something that shows we use development skills to drive testing.

Sinofsky, DeVaan, and George as a team go all the way back to Office 95. Sinofsky left a year ago. As of Jan. 1, both DeVaan and George have left the building -- er, campus.

There's been speculation online about how DeVaan and George were "forced out," but that's a crude and facile comment. Claiming the departures had anything to do with "Terry Myerson's wrath" shows a distinct lack of understanding about the situation. I've seen no indication that Myerson's upset with DeVaan or George (although Sinofsky's another story altogether). Mostly, the departure of the two veterans reflects a major shift in the direction Windows will take. DeVaan and George have the experience to make the old monolithic Windows hum, but Myerson's whistling a different tune.

Except for one holdout, all of the old Office/Windows inner circle has publicly left the Windows 8 happy hunting ground:

  • Julie Larson-Green, of ribbon and tile fame, left Windows in the July reorg, landing as head of the newly formed Devices and Studio Engineering group, which at the time included "all hardware development and supply chain from the smallest to the largest devices we build ... studios experiences including all games, music, video, and other entertainment." Sometime in the next few months, though, Steven Elop is coming home to roost in the Devices niche, bringing Nokia's mobile business -- and 32,000 or so employees -- along with him. It isn't at all clear at this point how Elop's devices match up with Larson-Green's devices, although his (possibly apocryphal) reported willingness to cut Xbox loose certainly didn't win him any friends among the other "devices" side of the family.
  • Jensen Harris, who deserves much of the "credit" for new user interface design in Office and Windows 8, formally left the Windows group last month to join the Bing team. Although I tend to think of Bing as being located organizationally somewhat north of eastern Siberia, I have to keep reminding myself that Satya Nadella -- a current long-shot contender for the Microsoft CEO crown -- left Bing less than three years ago. Another sign of the times: Almost a month after his transfer, Harris's personal blog still lists him in his old Windows position.
  • Tami Reller, marketing and finance honcho on the Windows team, has gone on to much more ambitious pursuits. In July she was named the new executive VP of marketing for all of Microsoft.
  • Michael Angiulo, who also arrived as a Friend of Sinofsky (FOS) from the Office team, made his mark on the Windows 8 release by leading an animated presentation at last year's Build conference and the Windows 8 launch. He was in charge of bringing Win8 religion to the OEM masses, as well as overseeing the Surface effort. With OEMs dissing Win8 openly and the Surface falling with a thud, he hasn't had a good year. At last report, per his LinkedIn site, he's corporate VP of Xbox hardware, apparently reporting to Larson-Green.

Two more key members of the Windows 8 management team face severe career changes in short order. Neither made it into the Win8 limelight through the FOS/Office vector, but they're both tarred -- rightly or wrongly -- with the Windows 8 brush.

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