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Another Microsoft Trojan? Sinofsky might just want a RIM job

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The past catches up at HP

There’s another problem in the fact that at least one former Sinofsky colleague works there and won’t welcome his arrival. Bill Veghte is HP’s chief operating officer but had been one of three Windows Group senior vice presidents with Sinofsky and Jon DeVaan before Sinofsky was named Windows group head in 2009. Nineteen-year Microsoft veteran Veghte left Microsoft in 2010.

Then there’s Dell. Back under the control of Michael these past five years, Dell has diversified but fallen down the market-share rankings, losing its crown long ago to HP and now slipping to number three according to IDC and Gartner.

Is Sinofsky the turn-around man Dell needs? Certainly, for Microsoft, Dell has the manufacturing processes and channel to crank out and help push Surface along with Windows 8 PCs.

Microsoft’s other great weakness is the web. Years after the Bing invention, Google continues to hoover up online dollars. Meanwhile, on cloud, Amazon remains the juggernaut with Microsoft’s Azure missing customers and revenue targets.

Could Sinofsky do an Elop, and land at a friendly internet or cloud company? It’s hard to see one on a scale that’s in sufficient trouble that it would want to bring in a new CEO. Not after Yahoo!, with which Microsoft already partners on ads and search, hired Google’s Marissa Mayer this year.

Given engineering, developers and product are his strengths, it’s possible Sinofsky could end up at somewhere like Amazon, Facebook or Zynga, working on the product and developer ecosystem and making apps and services tuned to Windows, Windows Phone or other platforms. He’d certainly be following in the footsteps of a number of other ex-Microsofties in going to Amazon.

Some have speculated, or rather hoped, Sinofsky’s break with Microsoft is not permanent – that he’ll work elsewhere and return to Redmond wiser from the world, to assume the CEO’s post once Ballmer’s time has come.

That time, though, isn't coming soon and Ballmer plans to run Microsoft until the end of the decade. Of course, whether he actually makes it depends on Windows 8 and Windows Phone and the reaction of the Microsoft shareholders and board.

Long road back

This is a long and uncertain road back to Redmond for Sinofsky. In the meantime there’s bills to pay, reputations to manage, and visions to fulfill. If Sinofsky’s exit isn’t some elaborate Trojan ploy, then based on what we’ve seen before, he has a number of options open.

One is to become an angel investor; another is run his own start-up – like ex Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz; or maybe he could land at a less high-profile tech company, as happened to ex-Oracle president Charles Phillips, who beacme CEO of ERP specialist Infor. Alternatively, Sinofsky might make a tangential move to a different but somewhat aligned field. That's what happened to Shai Agassi, SAP's onetime high-flying product technology group president tipped for the CEO's post but who resigned suddenly in March 2007... and went to a Better Place, becoming CEO of the eponymous electric-car company. Agassi has now left Better Place.

No matter where Sinofsky lands, one thing is for sure: his new employer will need to be comfortable bringing on somebody famed for delivery but also for not working well with those who disagree with him. An employer's question will be: what do they value most? ®

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