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."
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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.
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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