The end of Windows as we know it

A massive reorganization currently underway in the Windows unit foresees a wholesale change in the venerable OS

Earlier this morning, Ina Fried at AllThingsD dropped a bombshell: Today, the Windows unit is going through a massive reorganization that passes over many Windows stalwarts, bringing in a whole new crop of Windows honchos. Details are only starting to emerge, but this could well mark the start of a massive rethinking of the way Windows works.

It's about time.

The old guard is dropping like flies. Steve Sinofsky -- who brought us Windows 7, the best Windows of all time, as well as the monstrosity known as Windows 8 -- left last year.

Julie Larson-Green, who led the much-maligned UI effort on Windows 8 and brought us Windows 8.1, left to run the Devices unit of the newly reorganized Microsoft. In the past couple of weeks, her future place in the organization has been clouded by Stephen Elop's return to the fold. Elop's slated to lead the Devices unit, with Larson-Green picking up the Xbox One and Surface efforts.

Now it looks like almost all of the rest of the key Windows 8 management team is taking a hike. Fried puts it this way:

Terry Myerson will have at least seven direct reports in the new structure, including leaders for the development, test and program management positions plus individuals heading the company's phone/tablet/PC, Xbox, Services, as well as another in charge of "future special projects." Heading development will be Henry Sanders, who had worked with Myerson on Windows Phone. Also from the phone team, Joe Belfiore will lead a team focused on phones, tablets and PCs. The Xbox team will be run by Marc Whitten. Chris Jones will continue heading services.

Windows Phone, once in danger of being swallowed by the Sinofsky post-Windows 8 putsch, has effectively taken over the Windows effort, with former Phone execs now in charge of the most crucial areas. How do you spell "WinRT"?

More important, look at who isn't included in the reorganization plan, according to Fried:

Among the names not atop the new leadership list are Windows testing head Grant George, Windows services head Antoine Leblond and Microsoft veteran Jon DeVaan. It is unclear whether the trio will land roles within Windows, elsewhere at Microsoft or end up leaving the company.

I've been following Windows dev machinations for a lot of years and the Office group before that, and I can't imagine how the organization is going to continue without those three.

Leblond has long held a high-visibility spot on the Windows team, in many cases acting as a lightning rod for Microsoft's less-enlightened design decisions. Many people forget, but Leblond arrived on the Windows dev team as a Friend of Sinofsky, after spending many years working on Office. He led the development of Office 2010 after Sinofsky switched over to rescue Windows 7.

George has been in charge of testing -- first Office then, with the Sinofsky takeover, Windows -- for more than 20 years. He's very low profile, widely respected, and likely the best tester Microsoft has ever seen.

DeVaan has been the head tech guy on the Windows dev team, and before that on the Office dev team, for almost all of his 30 years at Microsoft. Again, he's low profile and widely respected. DeVaan's the guy who supervised building the plumbing in Windows 7 and 8 -- and most of Office before that.

DeVaan and George worked with Sinofsky to build Office 95.

They're all gone -- moved on, moved out, maybe retired. We'll know more details shortly. The point that sticks in my craw is that none of the three were responsible for the Jekyll-and-Hyde mess that is Windows 8.

The new crowd is an experienced group, to be sure, but their feet (and hips and shoulders and necks) aren't steeped in Windows lore. The Windows desktop-era developers know that well. It'll be interesting to see how many stick around and how many just chuck it.

If a developer has been working for Microsoft long enough for their stock options to vest, they've been around long enough to know that massive changes are under way. That may be good. Or maybe not.

This story, "The end of Windows as we know it," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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