Photo: Associated Press
Microsoft’s Windows boss Steven Sinofsky is out.It’s pretty surprising news because Sinofsky was leading the most important product at Microsoft, and he was thought to be the CEO-in-waiting.
The good news for shareholders is that Microsoft sheds executives like a snake sheds its skin.
We have a list of the top executives who have jump from Microsoft since the start of the Ballmer era and where they’ve landed.
A lot of Microsoft insiders look back at the departure of Paul Maritz in 2000 as the beginning of Microsoft's brain drain. Maritz was influential in Microsoft's early days, and at one point had control over nearly all Microsoft products, but his duties were gradually reduced after Steve Ballmer became President and later CEO.
In 2008, Maritz became CEO of VMWare, one of Microsoft's most important enterprise software competitors -- VMWare's virtualization software can reduce the amount of hardware and Microsoft software that companies need to run their data centres. He recently became the chief strategist at EMC, VMWare's parent company.
Maffei worked in finance at Microsoft in the 1990s, and was the company's CFO from 1997 through 2000. He left to become CEO of John Malone's cable and media company Liberty Media, where he was reportedly the highest-paid executive in the US in 2009, earning $87.5 million.
Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold started at Microsoft in 1986, was one of the closest advisors to Bill Gates, and was instrumental in starting Microsoft Research. He left in 2000 to form IP holding company Intellectual Ventures, which collects patents and then tries to capitalise on them by funding inventions or seeking licensing deals -- for instance, Samsung and HTC recently licensed the entire Intellectual Ventures portfolio to help protect themselves from Android-related IP litigation. He is reportedly still close with Gates.
Brian Valentine was known as a hard-charging executive, and as a senior vice president he oversaw Windows core technology for about eight years. He's credited with getting Windows 2000 on track after several delays, but stepped down in 2006 as Microsoft struggled to get Vista released. He is now the senior vice president of Amazon's e-commerce platform.
Compared with most of the other execs on this list, Gundotra was in a relatively low-level position at Microsoft -- he was a general manager of developer evangelism, putting him two or three levels below CEO Steve Ballmer. But as vice president of engineering for Google, Gundotra has been a high-profile spokesperson for the company. He is leading Google's social networking effort, Google+.
Kevin Johnson led Microsoft's Windows and Online divisions starting in 2005, taking over for Jim Allchin in the middle of the Vista development cycle. rumour has it that he ran into conflicts with Ballmer over the failed acquisition of Yahoo (which turned out to be a great move in retrospect). In 2008, he left to become CEO of Juniper Networks.
Chris Liddell joined Microsoft as Chief Financial Officer in 2005, and lasted a little more than four years before taking the same job at the restructured General Motors in late 2009. He left that job in 2011. We're not sure what he's up to now.
When Microsoft appointed Steve Sinofsky to lead the Windows business in mid-2009, the other senior vice president in the group, Bill Veghte, cooled his heels for a few months before leaving to take a job leading HP's software business in 2010.
Jeff Raikes joined Microsoft from Apple way back in 1981, and had several important roles at the company, including leading sales in the 1990s and heading up Office and other business software for nearly a decade. He was considered one of the most influential people at Microsoft before he in 2008 to become the CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He's not exactly a Microsoft outsider in his new role, and he's still considered a possible successor to Ballmer.
Stephen Elop came from Macromedia and Adobe to replace Jeff Raikes in 2008, but left after less than two years to become the CEO of mobile phone giant Nokia.
Robbie Bach was leading the Entertainment and Devices division which had Xbox and Windows phone in it. He stepped down in the fall of 2010 and we haven't heard much from him since.
Ray Ozzie was Microsoft's top software architect. He left in 2010. He invented Lotus Notes, which later became a major product for IBM. At Microsoft he didn't have direct control over any one product. When he left he warnted of a coming post-PC world. Details on his new startup Cocomo are limited.
Steven Sinofsky was at Microsoft for more than 20 years. He was running Windows, and widely believed to be next in line to become CEO. It didn't work out. He was ousted and now he's going to figure out his next gig.
Bill Gates is still Chairman of Microsoft's board of directors and the company's largest shareholder, but he handed the CEO reins to Ballmer in 2000 and left day-to-day duties at Microsoft in 2008. He now spends almost all of his time overseeing the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
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