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New Microsoft Windows chief 'shocked' by Sinofsky defenestration

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Analysis Microsoft’s new Windows chief Julie Larson-Green has admitted to being “shocked” at her elevation as Windows chief, casting further doubt on the idea that her predecessor Steven Sinofsky's departure has been an orderly process.

In a Facebook message, Larson-Green thanked people for a tide of congratulations adding:

“Still in a bit of shock”

Microsoft said on Tuesday Larson-Green will lead all Windows hardware and software on the immediate exit of Windows and Windows Live chief Steven Sinofsky.

In the official announcement, Microsoft’s chief executive Steve Ballmer suggested the transition was an orderly one, based on his experience.

He called Larson-Green the "best possible person for this job" based on the technical and business skills "required to continue our Windows trajectory".

But only the most loyal of Microsofties and credulous of Windows 8 fans could argue this was part of an ordered succession process.

Top executives on the level of Sinofsky would usually serve out their time over a period of months as part of a hand over. They do not leave with immediate effect.

Normally, Microsoft would have announced the departure and built in a transition period of several months - not just to ensure development continues smoothly but to convince World+Dog, too, that development is proceeding without interruption.

Sinofsky’s exit came mid-way through the Windows 8 launch period - less than three weeks after Windows 8 and Windows RT Surface were pushed out and ahead of next year’s release of Windows 8 Pro Surfaces running on Intel chips.

An adequate or convincing explanation of the sudden change has not been forthcoming from Ballmer, Sinofsky or Microsoft.

Julie Larson-Green Facebook

Shocked? So were we

Sinofsky claimed he was taking a break between product cycles. During a Churchill Club interview with LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, Ballmer was easily let off the hook over Sinofsky's departure - which was easily the most disruptive event during the launch cycle of the company’s most significant product since Windows 95. Ballmer briefly addressed the issue with the comment:

“Sinofsky’s departure was his decision. We wish him well...”

The Redmond CEO then quickly moved on to other topics, distracting the audience and journalists by taking easy shots at rivals.

It’s not clear Larson-Green actually has the engineering chops or the respect among Microsoft's engineers to drive Windows. Her background is UI: she’s famous for developing the infamous Office 2007 Ribbon UI and also worked on the controversial Metro UI.

Reading Mini Microsoft, a Redmond insiders’ blog, shows that - among Microsofties at least - her UI background is not just taken as lightweight but also as disastrous. Several commenters point out that the Metro UI threw out decades of experience and risks losing users and developers.

One former Microsoft exec told us he didn’t think she was up to the job and suspects this could be a temporary appointment.

Larson-Green is in fact not a full Sinofsky replacement, she takes on just the engineering duties of the president and has not been given control over business. That goes to Windows and Windows Live chief financial officer Tami Reller. In an echo of what happened when Entertainment and Devices chief Robbie Bach left in 2010, the kingdom has been split between the CFO/business person and a technology expert or experts. ®

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