Windows 8 Mastermind Had to Leave Microsoft Because He Was Too Much Like Steve Jobs

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Steve Sinofsky, the guy behind Windows 8 and once touted as a possible successor to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, left the company yesterday because of his prickliness, even though he got things done, a source tells The New York Times's Nick Wingfield. "His abrasive style was a source of discord within the company," Wingfield writes after speaking with "a person briefed on the situation who was not authorized to speak publicly about it." That was a theory floated by Bloomberg Businessweek's Ashley Vance as well, who blamed his "often prickly nature" for the move. This nature sounds a lot like another notoriously jerky executive: Steve Jobs. Like Jobs, his abrasiveness helped him get things done. "Sinofsky is known inside and outside the company as a guy who got things done and done his way," wrote CNET's Jay Greene. He was admired for his "effectiveness," adds Wingfield. He spearheaded the entire overhaul of the Windows operating system, ushering in Windows 8 this fall, for example. So, as someone who was often cited as next in line for the CEO position, it's a bit surprising that his ability to deliver didn't outweigh his harsh personality. It worked out that way for Jobs, so why not him? 

Well, unfortunately, Sinofsky wasn't in charge of the whole show. A boss can act evil as long as he gets things done. Sinfosky wasn't the head of it all, at least not yet. The "tipping point" for his departure came after a number of "run-ins" with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and other unnamed company leaders, says Wingfield after speaking with "several current and former Microsoft executives who declined to be named discussing internal matters."  Some of those "run-ins" include not getting more apps for the Windows app store. (An issue the bloggers noted when the operating system came out.) And also getting the company in trouble with European regulators, resulting in a fine for the company. 

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Or maybe the era of mean bosses has ended? Scott Forstall, the man behind Apple's iPhone operating system, also had this kind of rapport with people, an often cited reason for his recent departure from the company. (In that case: Underlings rejoice.) 

Then again, having someone like that around has benefited companies in the past. So letting him go could have some negative effects on the company's ability to build good stuff. These people are revered, in part, because they have a vision that they push until it gets done—even if it means pissing off everyone to get it done. Some argue creativity flows through those kinds of people. Without Sinofksy at Microsoft, the company might move to creating through committee, notes Wingfield, which sounds lovely and warm, but might not lead to the best results. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.