Windows 7 savior, Windows 8 champion Sinofsky out at Microsoft

Steven Sinofsky leaves Redmond weeks after Windows 8's launch, with the Metro UI chief taking his place

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced this evening that Steven Sinofsky -- long rumored as Ballmer's replacement, and the man who fixed the Windows Vista debacle and championed the radical and largely unloved overhaul that became Windows 8 -- has left Microsoft effective immediately. In a statement to Microsoft employees obtained by the Wall Street Journal, Ballmer said:

"Steven Sinofsky has decided to leave the company. Steven joined Microsoft in 1989 as a software development engineer and has contributed to the company in many ways from his work as a technical adviser to Bill Gates, to leading the evolution of the Microsoft Office business, to his direction and successful leadership of Windows and Windows Live as well as Surface [Microsoft's tablet, which has received mostly poor reviews]. I am grateful for the work that Steven has delivered in his time at our company."

[ Windows 8 is here, and InfoWorld can help you get ready with the Windows 8 Deep Dive PDF special report, which explains Microsoft's bold new direction for Windows, the new Metro interface for tablet and desktop apps, the transition from Windows 7, and more. | Stay abreast of key Microsoft technologies in our Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]

Julie Larson-Green, who was instrumental in the development of the Metro UI in Windows Phone and now Windows 8, as well as the ribbon-oriented overhaul of Office, will take over Sinofsky's role, managing the Windows, Windows Live, and Surface product teams.

Sinofsky's tenure at Microsoft has been controversial, with some crediting him for salvaging Windows after the Vista debacle and then getting Microsoft to adopt a radical new approach to Windows in response to the challenge of the iPad and Android tablets that have grown while PC sales have declined.

Some commentators have complained that Sinofsky has bungled the Windows transition by not dropping the legacy Windows 7 environment, which coexists awkwardly with Metro in Windows 8, while others have complained he has pushed Windows too far into alien territory, making it too unfamiliar to users. However, Larson-Green's appointment as his successor suggests Ballmer is committed to the radical rethinking of Windows that Sinofsky championed.

Ballmer has seen several high-profile technology executives depart in recent years -- many also tipped to be his successor -- including Bob Muglia and Ray Ozzie.

Sinofsky's statement upon leaving Microsoft was positive but, like Ballmer's, gave no details as to why he left so suddenly: "It is impossible to count the blessings I have received over my years at Microsoft," he said in a statement. "I am humbled by the professionalism and generosity of everyone I have had the good fortune to work with at this awesome company."

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