Steven Sinofsky is leaving Microsoft, having just led the release of Windows 8 and, in part, helping to give the company a fresh dose of cool.
Despite his efforts with the new OS, Sinfosky was seen as something of a controversial figure at Microsoft and, according to Cnet , was thought to be involved an internal war with CEO Steve Ballmer.
Neither gave any indication that this might have been the case. Given the speed with which the announcement went into effect however, acrimony probably shouldn’t be ruled out.
“I am grateful for the work that Steven has delivered in his time at our company,” Ballmer said in his memo to the company.
Sinofsky’s deputy Julie Larson-Green will take over as head of the Windows division, looking after Windows and Windows Live, in addition to Surface. Tami Reller, the current chief financial officer and chief marketing officer, will lead business and marketing strategy for Windows including Surface and partner devices. Both will report directly to Ballmer.
Some had pegged the Windows head as a future CEO but, according to Cnet , he didn’t play nicely with the heads of other Microsoft departments.
Whatever his issues with other Microsoft employees might have been, there’s no doubt that Sinofsky was good for Microsoft. The work he and Jon DeVaan  did on Windows 7 saved face for the company after the cluster-fuck that was Windows Vista.
One of the reasons he was able to effect that turn around was because of his decision not to make any promises about the product or even discuss anything about it until Microsoft was sure that it felt like a quality product.
With Sinfosky out the door, the race for Ballmer’s successor just got a little tighter. The internal nominees include chief operating officer Kevin Turner, although his background with Walmart means he might not have the technical chops to take the CEO job.
Cnet meanwhile suggests that Netflix chief executive and former Microsoft board member Reed Hastings could be in line for the job, especially if Microsoft buys Netflix. It could also go completely left-field, do a Yahoo! and poach from Google.
Check out the memos from Sinofsky and Ballmer on the departure below:
From: Steven Sinofsky
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 5:42 PM
To: Microsoft – All Employees (QBDG)
Subject: RE: Windows Leadership Changes
With the general availability of Windows 8/RT and Surface, I have decided it is time for me to take a step back from my responsibilities at Microsoft. I’ve always advocated using the break between product cycles as an opportunity to reflect and to look ahead, and that applies to me too.
After more than 23 years working on a wide range of Microsoft products, I have decided to leave the company to seek new opportunities that build on these experiences. My passion for building products is as strong as ever and I look forward focusing my energy and creativity along similar lines.
The Windows team, in partnerships across all of Microsoft and our industry, just completed products and services introducing a new era of Windows computing. It is an incredible experience to be part of a generational change in a unique product like Windows, one accomplished with an undeniable elegance. Building on Windows, Surface excels in design and utility for a new era of PCs. With the Store, Internet Explorer, Outlook.com, SkyDrive and more, each of which lead the way, this experience is connected to amazing cloud services.
It is inspiring to think of these efforts making their way into the hands of Microsoft’s next billion customers. We can reflect on this project as a remarkable achievement for each of us and for the team. Our work is not done, such is the world of technology, and so much more is in store for customers.
It is impossible to count the blessings I have received over my years at Microsoft. I am humbled by the professionalism and generosity of everyone I have had the good fortune to work with at this awesome company. I am beyond grateful.
I have always promised myself when the right time came for me to change course, I would be brief, unlike one of my infamous short blog posts, and strive to be less memorable than the products and teams with which I have been proudly and humbly associated. The brevity of this announcement is simply a feature.
Some might notice a bit of chatter speculating about this decision or timing. I can assure you that none could be true as this was a personal and private choice that in no way reflects any speculation or theories one might read–about me, opportunity, the company or its leadership.
As I’ve always believed in making space for new leaders as quickly as possible, this announcement is effective immediately and I will assist however needed with the transition.
I am super excited for what the future holds for the team and Microsoft.
With my deepest appreciation,
From: Steve Ballmer
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 5:16 PM
To: Microsoft – All Employees (QBDG)
Subject: Windows Leadership Changes
Over the past few months we have delivered the foundation for a new era for Microsoft. From Office to Bing to Windows Phone and Windows Azure, to Xbox and of course Windows and Surface and everything in between, we’ve unleashed a huge wave of devices and services that people and businesses love. I simply couldn’t be more proud of the effort you have all put in to get us here and to set the foundation for our future. At the Windows launch in New York, at the Windows Phone event in San Francisco, and again at the Build event on Redmond campus, I was struck that while externally many people look at these events as the finish line, they really represent the starting line of a new era.
As we enter this new era, and with the successful launch of Windows 8 and Surface behind us, Steven Sinofsky has decided to leave the company. Steven joined Microsoft in 1989 as a software development engineer and has contributed to the company in many ways from his work as a technical advisor to Bill Gates, to leading the evolution of the Microsoft Office business, to his direction and successful leadership of Windows and Windows Live as well as Surface. I am grateful for the work that Steven has delivered in his time at our company.
Effective immediately, Julie Larson-Green will lead Windows engineering. She will be responsible for all product development for Windows and Windows Live, in addition to Surface. Julie has been a stalwart leader of building compelling “experiences” from her time on Internet Explorer, through the evolution of Office and most recently to the re-imagination of Windows. Her unique product and innovation perspective and proven ability to effectively collaborate and drive a cross company agenda will serve us well as she takes on this new leadership role. All of the current Windows engineering teams will report into Julie, and Julie will report to me.
Tami Reller will lead business and marketing strategy for Windows including Surface and partner devices. She will provide broad stewardship to our PC marketing efforts while managing the line business functions for Windows. Her work on Windows since 2007 has been exemplary and her strong talents in working with internal groups and partners will also serve us well. Tami also will report to me.
We are facing a time of great opportunity. What we have accomplished over the past few years is nothing short of amazing, and I know we have more amazing in us. I am excited about our people, I am energized by our ability to change and grow, and I look forward to the success which lies ahead. Thank you for all you do, and please join me in congratulating our new leadership and celebrating all that we have accomplished so far.