High tech or high drama? You decide

Sinofsky leaves Microsoft, McAfee goes on the lam, secret emails bring down chief spy Petraeus -- reality TV has nothing on the tech industry

Steve Ballmer's heir apparent Steve Sinofsky abruptly departs from Microsoft amid rumors of run-ins and ambition run amok; John McAfee, millionaire founder of the antivirus software company, is sought by police in connection with the murder of his Belize neighbor; and distinguished General David Petraeus resigns as CIA chief, brought down by an FBI investigation of emails sent by his secret lover. During the week of Nov. 12, 2012, the tech industry was cast in an uncharacteristically soap opera-ish light, full of notorious individuals behaving badly.

Steve Sinofsky, the man who fixed the Windows Vista debacle and championed the radical OS overhaul that became Windows 8, left Microsoft suddenly this week. Sinofsky, long rumored as Ballmer's replacement, has been an abrasive, polarizing figure within Microsoft, but CITEworld's Matt Rosoff scoffs at rumors that the departure stems from dissatisfaction with Windows 8. In "Sinofsky is out, but don't expect big changes at Microsoft," Rosoff identifies thwarted ambition as the likelier root cause: "Sinofsky could either put his ambition on hold and wait around for the top spot or move on to greener pastures." As Rosoff points out, "many other top Microsoft leaders have made the same decision over the last five years, including former CTO Ray Ozzie, Server & Tools chief Bob Muglia, and Business Division leader Jeff Raikes."

Woody Leonhard's look at the real reason Steve Sinofsky left Microsoft also dismisses theories that the departure was linked to Windows 8 performance. Leonhard says Sinofsky probably made up his mind to leave weeks ago and cites "his milquetoast performance last month at the Windows 8 product launch (starting at 11:30 in the video)" as evidence.

Meanwhile, the same day the blogosphere was buzzing over Sinofsky, news broke that antivirus pioneer John McAfee was wanted for murder in Belize, the prime suspect in the shooting death of Gregory Faull, an American expatriate. This is not the first time McAfee has been the center of a maelstrom for increasingly erratic behavior. As InfoWorld's own Robert X. Cringely related back in May in "True tales of tech execs gone wild," McAfee first went on the lam in Belize after being accused by local authorities of running a meth lab. 

InfoWorld security blogger Roger Grimes got to know McAfee in the late '80s, and in his firsthand account "My adventures with McAfee," describes him as "a bold entrepreneur who became a multimillionaire by creating a single executable that could scan for and clean multiple computer viruses at once. He's a big part of why I decided to make my career in the computer security industry." But Grimes says the strangest part of his personal journey with McAfee "was the time he wanted me to help him start an AIDS-free sex club." Upon hearing the latest news out of Belize, Grimes says he is "surprised, of course, but given his bizarre behavior toward the end of my association with him, not entirely shocked."

As for the sex scandal that brought down CIA Director David Petraeus, InfoWorld's Robert X. Cringely says: "Bullets shatter bones, knives cut flesh, napalm burns, bombs explode. But nothing can hurt you quite the way email can, long after the smoke has cleared." This increasingly convoluted scandal involves a decorated four-star Army general, questions about national security, and even the September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi (Cringely points out that Gawker has conjured up "a helpful flowchart that shows all the players -- so far -- and how they relate to each other"). But perhaps the key lessons for those in the tech industry can be found in "Email lessons from Gen. Petraeus' downfall." It's easier than you think to trace emails, so be mindful of what you're sending.

This article, "High tech or high drama? You decide," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.