Feeds

Metro's mother to replace defenestrated Windows boss Sinofsky

Larson-Green also invented Office Ribbon. Just sayin'

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Comment Microsoft's decision to fill the small void left by departing Windows boss Steven Sinofsky with Julie Larson-Green and Tami Reller is a boost for the empowerment of women at US tech companies.

Larson-Green is Microsoft's first female Windows development chief, in the wake of Tuesday's shock departure of Windows and Windows Live president Sinofsky. She's now in charge of building updates to Windows 8 and its successor, Windows Next. Her contemporaries include Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, Yahoo!'s Marissa Mayer and Hewlett-Packard's Meg Whitman.

On Larson-Green's shoulders rests responsibility for the engineering work of an $18bn business and enduring a period of upheaval and great uncertainty. Revenue for the Windows group fell during the company's most recent fiscal year as the economy sagged and people drifted towards smartphones and tablets.

But who is Larson-Green and what's really in store?

The first thing to realise is that Larson-Green is not a straight replacement for Sinofsky: she doesn't enjoy the full group president's role that Sinofsky wielded. Larson-Green is head of Windows software and engineering; the job of running the Windows business goes to existing Windows group vice-president Tami Reller.

Dividing the role of a departing boss between two lower-ranking executives has, incidentally, happened in other Microsoft reorganisations.

Larson-Green joined the Redmond giant in 1993 and spent large parts of her time working on user interfaces and what Microsoft calls the user "experience". She worked with Sinofksy on Office XP and Office 2003 and most notably oversaw the design of Office 2007, which introduced a controversial change: the Ribbon.

She continued to lead the development of the user interface in Windows 7 and 8. As a former corporate vice-president of Windows client program management, she was responsible for the system's graphical design and research, and global releases of software. Larson-Green had up to 1,400 people reporting to her.

Being an "interface expert" is already considered a black mark against her among the Microsofties on the Mini Microsoft blog, who feel she lacks proper engineering chops.

The fact she was behind the Ribbon and the Windows 8 Metro interface will not fill some folk with confidence: the Office Ribbon sowed confusion among those used to drop-down menus. Metro threatens to go the same way; the tiled interface and the death of the Start button presents a new challenge to users.

The road ahead for Larson-Green is forked: rather than just driving forward development of the OS on x86 hardware, she must oversee Intel-compatible and ARM codebases, plus the engineering of Microsoft's Surface tablets in addition to planning a new version of Windows sometime in the next three years.

Saviour, sinner, love him, hate him - nobody took a neutral stance on exiting Windows chief Sinofksy. Those who liked him, admired him for shaking up Microsoft's product delivery - in some ways, he transformed Microsoft back into an engineering organisation.

Remember when the only thing reliable about Microsoft Office was that a new version would ship late? It was Sinofsky who turned that around by overhauling the Office team. He turned around Windows, too, bringing in Windows 7 and 8 on budget and on time following the Windows Vista omnishambles.

For this, many liked and believed in Sinofsky, and saw a future Microsoft without Sinofsky as inconceivable. Those who resented Sinofsky, however, saw him as a destroyer of Windows by green-lighting the new Metro interface.

However, you square it, Larson-Green starts on the back foot: somebody who - at best - is no Steven Sinofsky "genius" and who - at worst - is somebody whose experience and design input are viewed with suspicion. She takes up her new role after the person responsible for delivering Windows 8 has gone suddenly and without much explanation. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Sway: Microsoft's new Office app doesn't have an Undo function
Content aggregation, meet the workplace ... oh
Sign off my IT project or I’ll PHONE your MUM
Honestly, it’s a piece of piss
Return of the Jedi – Apache reclaims web server crown
.london, .hamburg and .公司 - that's .com in Chinese - storm the web server charts
NetWare sales revive in China thanks to that man Snowden
If it ain't Microsoft, it's in fashion behind the Great Firewall
Chrome 38's new HTML tag support makes fatties FIT and SKINNIER
First browser to protect networks' bandwith using official spec
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.