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back to article Former Microsoft Windows chief: I was right to kill the Start button

Ex-Windows chief Steven Sinofsky is “happy” with the miserable sales record of tablets and PCs running his Windows 8 baby. Speaking at the Wall St Journal’s D11 conference yesterday, Sinofsky pitched sales of Windows 8 licences as something to be proud of, saying the jury’s out on who will win - Apple, Android/Samsung... …

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Anonymous Coward

Usually when execs make comments like that when they leave it's because they still have stock or stock options there.

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Actually, listening to him speak, I was surprised by how low level he sounded. He didn't talk numbers, he didn't talk financials, he didn't talk like someone who meaningfully owned the product definition. He sounded like an experienced senior product manager or head-of-product, who has spent so long navigating company politics he can no longer think outside the spun version of "reality" he has chosen to inhabit. Ironically if he had just provided some acknowledgement the crown has slipped and MS have to fight to get it back, he would have been able command much more authority and sound like the executive at the high level he actually inhabited. But no, in his version of "reality" all is roses. He was speaking to the audience like they were employees at a company convention who by virtue of being employees have to submit to the management principle you should only be allowed to look forward to positive outcomes, not backwards to the negative. This was not a business event. It was a chat, a chance to reminisce, an opportunity to relate to the world some of what it was like for him to work at Microsoft. At no point, did I feel we were hearing what he really thinks. There is a lot of value in the principle of looking to the positive when it is applied authentically and by a realist, but often and by Sinofsky, it was used to avoid acknowledging the Elephant rampaging about the room.

Right there, I thought, is MIcrosoft's problem. In a big company you end up with division of ownership along political lines and that results in political speak and the need to commit huge energy to get any job done. I wanted to shake him and say, "it's OK to criticise some aspects of the company. It's ok to say the innovators dilemma is a harder deal at Microsoft because, just look at the history, understandably we have a sacred cow." We get it that that places some very tricky constraints on product development at Microsoft. I don't see him as weak because he couldn't overhaul that after all it's pretty clear to the world only Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer can sign-off on truly radical departures from the status quo.

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Above, meant to say "this was not a MS business event", as of course the D conference is a business event.

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FAIL

So, on a brighter note...

Let's see how the new, shiny, improved Windows 8 is doing when compared to that evil crappy old nasty who's name no Microsoft exec is even allowed to utter: Vista. Oh dear...

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Linux

From my point of view, I think that he was absolutely right. Of course, I use and support Linux.

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A pedant writes...

A 'sabbatical' is when someone is given (paid or unpaid) leave from their job in order to pursue something else (usually research) for a (usually) fixed period of time, after which they return to their job.

Therefore, Sinofsky is not on sabbatical. He is unemployed.

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Alien

Re: A pedant writes... <--- perfect!

" Therefore, Sinofsky is not on sabbatical. He is unemployed. "

Not only that, he left on a Monday in time to shake up the stock market. No-one "plans" an exit for a Monday, especially the Monday the week prior to the long Thanksgiving holiday ( which is a perfect opportunity to bury a bad news story ). No, Sinofsky and Ballmer most likely had it out and either he quit on the spot or was fired and escorted out of the building. People in his important and high position never do this. They have transitions with overlap to ease the replacement into the job. If he left on good terms it would have been pre-announced.

So he is at the very least fibbing. The question is why there is no real journalism anymore? Where is Thurrott and his so-called sources? Why hasn't he snagged an interview?

Sinofsky was the Windows Destroyer-in-Chief. If you participated in that sham of a blog you already know this. If you did not you should understand that he would answer a small handful of fluff comments from MetroTards ( "Hey Steve, love the new colors, any chance we'll get some more?" ), while ducking the overwhelming criticism and deleting many others. When the Start Button went away in beta2 ( the CP ) and then Aero Glass *after* beta3 ( the RP ) but *before* the RTM ( the release ) comments were especially harsh and he ignored it all ( even having one of his servants do the Aero announcement ). I have never seen anything so arrogant and disrespectful done to their beloved customers, or to anyone else for that matter.

Steven Sinofsky, Architect of the Metro Matrix!

http://i.imgur.com/llIaLfO.jpg

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Re: A pedant writes... <--- perfect!

"while ducking the overwhelming criticism and deleting many others"

So a follower of the Orlowski school of.... bein a dick

you wouldn't have thought it possible but I like him less!

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kb
Unhappy

Re: A pedant writes... <--- perfect!

Well friend if the rumors are true (and please do take into account they ARE rumors, no way to get the full story unless you are one of the participants in these things) then the reason Sinofsky was kicked out the door was NOT because he wanted any of this tripe, quite the opposite in fact as he wanted to make Win 8 the Win98SE to Win 7s Win98, it was BALLMER who rammed all this through and when Sinofsky finally got fed up and said "Fix this or I'm out" Ballmer told him to walk.

Considering the evidence such as him being given the boot on a Monday and how while his speeches on the run up to Win 7 were obviously written by him and tech heavy the speeches he gave on the run up to Win 8 were written by marketing and nothing but buzzword bingo (seriously watch one of his Win 8 speeches and take a shot every time he says touchscreen or touch and you'll pass out before the halfway point) I tend to believe this version as it makes the most sense with the known evidence we have. Ballmer has been pushing Apple Clones for more than half a decade like Zune and Kin and Zune Market, ALL failures I might add, while the work done by Sinofsky up to Win 8 didn't show any leaning in that direction, Its really not hard to see whose sweaty fingerprints are all over the design of Win 8.

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Meh

'....his blog Learning by shipping.'

Maybe, given the speculation on those 100 million licenses, he'll change its name to "Learning from unsold returns" soon?

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Re: '....his blog Learning by shipping.'

Sinofsky and Win 8 shipping? I've been surfing tumblr too much. This is what came to me first when I read that:

1. shipping

A term used to describe fan fictions that take previously created characters and put them as a pair. It usually refers to romantic relationships, but it can refer platonic ones as well. (Just think of "shipping" as short for "relationSHIP".)

Sinofsky and Win 8 shipping?... EWWW! I'm off to bleach my brain now!

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Unhappy

Re: '....his blog Learning by shipping.'

"1. shipping

A term used to describe fan fictions that take previously created characters and put them as a pair. It usually refers to romantic relationships, but it can refer platonic ones as well. (Just think of "shipping" as short for "relationSHIP".)"

I did not know this.

"Sinofsky and Win 8 shipping?."

I have not felt this bad since an old web search inadvertently threw up a detailed description of the term "furry"

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Megaphone

He's happy...

So am I, happy that he left that is..

One down, now we just Steve "teflon" Ballmer to go..

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Devil

Thank god hes out !!

Sinofsky is probably the single most obvious reason Windows 8 sales sucked.

I understand that there needed to be 1 interface but he had a retarded mental block when it came to use case scenarios - mainly business which is the mainstay of Microsoft.

He though of himself as a hipster and yuppie and tried to be like Google and Apple and failed.

All Windows 8 needed was its start button back, (for office and desktop use), a shared favorites page between the metro and desktop IE, a simple shut down button, and oh, add flash to the metro IE.

A few simple things that would make windows 8 an easy choice, with choice, to bounce between tablet and desktop function. So simple, yet he failed so hard at it. Next time LISTEN TO YOUR USER BASE AND USE CASE SCENARIOS !! The users have to adopt it, don't make it painful, simply make things optional and you'll keep the old and gain the new !!

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Re: Thank god hes out !!

@Jabberwolf for head of Windows division!

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Pint

Re: Thank God he's out !!

"I understand that there needed to be 1 interface..."

False *. No more than the 'need' to force everyone to use the same user interface language, or other localizations. It's called Consumer Choice - ignore it and we'll ignore your products.

(* Provided that they also provide a quick and easy way to switch between the various interface choices so that the IT Support hired help can issue one command to reinstate the normal default scheme.)

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Devil

Re: Thank God he's out !!

Let me reiterate JeffyPooh:

They want one interface (eventually one common OS) for all of their products.

computer, laptop, tablet, Phone, .. even Xbox. This would make a seamless bounce from one device to another and keep all their services the same with one login.

I know that's what their end goal is - but the "desktop" interface is going to be there for quite a long time. That was my point. They want to give users a common interface and probably OS, but they have to allow the users to choose to move to it, not force, and give them a choice.

Again, gain the new and keep the old. Otherwise they piss off the old base and put off the new customer base with what they were doing.

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Happy

Re: Thank god hes out !!

"Next time LISTEN TO YOUR USER BASE AND USE CASE SCENARIOS !!"

You don't understand, I'm so precious, I'm so smart. I just have to make the non-obvious choice. That's what makes me special. And it gives me grabbing rights ! ! !

The moron is obviously still in denial.

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Re: simply make things optional

The changes aren't about making Windows a better desktop tool, they're about MSFT trying to leverage their desktop presence to gain market share with mobile devices. A problem with this tactic (apart from not owning the rights to "Metro", making ugly difficult interfaces that users complain about, annoying hardware partners by associating the software launch with own-brand hardware, advertising campaigns that leave the public wondering "what was that about?") is that the PC business was feeling a bit fragile already ...

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kb
Windows

Re: Thank god hes out !!

I'm sorry friend but as a small PC shop owner I can tell you that all that? Really wouldn't have saved Win 8.

There is several flaws with Win 8 and metro is but one, the way the design makes assumptions, such as how it thinks the users need ZERO context or explanation, not even mouse overs to let them know what this or that does, its "We are all artsy fartsy!" attitude of making elements that makes it damned hard to tell at a glance what is clickable and what isn't, and the reason I won't carry it in my shop "refresh my PC" which I am convinced was put in there as they had a serious corruption issue they just weren't able to pin down so they stuck that in there as a CYA.

I can tell you that since Win 7 reached RTM I have yet to have to reinstall Win 7 that wasn't either caused by malware infection or hardware failure but I've had waaay too many people paying me to "refresh their PC" thanks to Win 8 shitting itself and them not being comfortable with the procedure. As to the why I can't tell you, I have a theory that its the bolted on nature of TIFKAM and the way its constantly updating all its tweeting twitting crud in the background, probably with a good dose of MSFT's beloved hamfisted DRM, but that is just a theory.

In any case i can tell you that Win 8 is NOT "just Win 7 with TIFKAM" because many of those problems, including the refresh issue, still remain even if you restore the start menu or even replace the shell completely with something like Astonshell. any way you slice it Win 8 is simply a bad design and like Vista I seriously doubt it can be salvaged, and I predict Win 8.1 will be the first double flop in the history of MSFT. No wonder Acer is bragging about 12% of their income coming from Chromebooks, they like most of the OEMs are looking for the exit to get away from TIFKAM.

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Linux

"I was right to kill the Start button" -- He seems confident.

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Go

What many don't understand is the 'Start' Button is still there. It's now a hot point in the bottom left hand corner of the screen. It appears when you move the mouse cursor to that corner. When you click it the 'Start' Menu it takes over the entire screen.

Windows 8 also boots to the 'Start' Menu. After using the product for a few days it makes sense. I think it was a good design choice and I'm a little disappointed they're reverting to the old ways with SP1. I'm hoping we can get Windows 8 deployed at our company before SP1 is released so our users get a chance to enjoy the new UI.

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re: the 'Start' Button is still there

It's not just the button that people want, but the hierarchical rearrangeable start menu interface. The one that's no good for touch devices.

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Megaphone

Re: re: the 'Start' Button is still there

"It's not just the button that people want, but the hierarchical re-arrangeable start menu interface. The one that's no good for touch devices." -Pookietoo

Not only that, but the control panel is a mess, and networking has been redesigned to be used only by children.

BTW, the "fix" in Windows 8.1 for the Start button just screams that Microsoft still isn't listening so here I go again, "We don't want a big screen of things you think we should see, we want a proper hierarchical menu of everything that should be there!"

Why can't they grasp the concept that we are not too stupid to find the start button, it's that their replacement is not useful. A monkey knows that clicking on the ugly windows icon on the right will open up some stupid App search window, at which point you can now start typing what you think the developer has decided to name their program, and yes 99% of the time you will see your choice pop up, but the problem is that this by far the slowest most inaccurate way of launching a program (doubled by the fact that a tablet device doesn't have a keyboard, and will proceed to take up half your screen with a virtual one at this point). With a menu system, you see EVERYTHING, so if the vendor decided to name his calculator program "A.D.D.4 Fun", you will see it in the list, not only that, but you will see any help files and extra links the vendor has installed with it. The original way may not be that best possible way to do this function, but the new way is not better, it is in fact much worse by a factor of 10.

It was designed to be used by the lowest user level they could think of, and they gave no thought to how anyone outside of that skill level would like it. Otherwise known as a bad design.

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FAIL

He killed the Start Button.

But he didn't make sure it was dead, and just like in the movies, it came back and killed him.

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Thumb Up

Re: He killed the Start Button.

So basically its "Kill Steve" Volumes 1 & 2.

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Coat

Re: He killed the Start Button.

So basically its "Kill Steve" Volumes 1 & 2.

Which Steve?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: He killed the Start Button.

It doesn't matter. Kill one Steve and another Steve will replace him. It's Steves all the way down.

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Re: He killed the Start Button.

the wrong one

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Windows

When you look at it it's actually pretty stupid...

When you install Windows 7 on a PC you'll have, well, Windows 7 obviously. In all it's glory.

When you install it on a laptop on the other hand you too have Windows 7, yet with some extra functionality which is specific for laptop usage. Things like presentation mode, those aren't available on the PC (but can be activated by hacking the registry).

It makes me wonder why Microsoft didn't extend on this? Microsoft obviously wants one solution to rule all markets. I don't think it's smart, but alas.

And Metro as a stand alone environment isn't all that bad IMO, I use it on my phone and actually like it there. But it becomes totally different on a desktop (without touch hardware), it's also a reason why I dislike Windows 8 with a passion.

They had an architecture which could provide functionality based on hardware; it really boggles me that they didn't use this for touch based equipment. You know: you work with the classic keyboard / mouse and you get a start menu. You work with a touch screen and you get the Metro start screen.

And for the die hards who have A but also want B: you can hack the registry and tune the stuff yourself.

Microsoft should really learn to give the users what they want (and optionally give them even more) instead of trying to continue to dictate the market what's best for them. Because more and more does it become apparent that if they keep this up then people may actually stop buying into Microsoft desktops alltogether.

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Re: When you look at it it's actually pretty stupid...

Getting Users to use Metro is only part of the issue, they needed Developers to make Metro apps as well.

There are approximately 1 gazillion non-touch PC/Laptop based Windows installations out there and about 100 metro touch installations. If the developers aren't forced to develop for the new UI they wouldn't bother because it makes no economic sense for them.

I'm sure in the back of their crazy little minds they were hoping forcing Metro on everything makes Windows mobile development more attractive because even if the code can't run directly on mobile hardware the UI restrictions will already have been taken into account.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: When you look at it it's actually pretty stupid...

It's a classic case of Microsoft wanting to get into a market and feeling that the only way for the "touch" interface to become accepted is to make it the default and make it hard to avoid.

Which when it comes to a pure desktop machine is a bit difficult to use. Nobody with a tablet seems to be complaining.

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Re: When you look at it it's actually pretty stupid...

Of course the new Metro-based monochrome styles of Visual Studio 2012 makes life as a Windows developer far harder than it needs to be, so it turns out that they are actively making it more difficult to develop for the new Windows UI.

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Joke

Re: When you look at it it's actually pretty stupid...

I've told you a "gazillion" times to not exaggerate!

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Coat

Re: When you look at it it's actually pretty stupid...

Microsoft should really learn to give the users what they want (and optionally give them even more) instead of trying to continue to dictate the market what's best for them.

Microsoft is doing exactly that...when 'them' == Microsoft.

Oh, you mean when 'them' == users? Silly ShelLuser...

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Re: When you look at it it's actually pretty stupid...

No, it's YOU who doesn't understand how a very big ego can simply overwhelm the brain. This guy probably had a whole layer of clueless people to shield him from the truth and the harsh reality of the world out there, whose sole purpose was to tell him how smart he was and that everybody who didn't agree with him "simply didn't get it".

So now he's all alone on his own little planet. Kinda sad really.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: When you look at it it's actually pretty stupid...

The function of a VP's staff has always been to protect the VP from awkward contact with reality, so that they can wield power without said VP finding out. The problem comes when the VP gets to make decisions.

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Facepalm

Why "should" Microsoft learn to give the users what they want?

Unless your stock portfolio or income depends upon Microsoft's financial success, why worry?

Microsoft never gave the users what they wanted in the past, but for a variety of reasons their products became widespread in office and consumer environments, and users lived with what they were given. Now that users have more choices on their new devices, let *them* decide. It's hard to imagine that many users or IT professionals will be shedding tears over Microsoft's failure to dominate the personal computing market the way they did a decade ago.

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Happy

Re: When you look at it it's actually pretty stupid...

"Of course the new Metro-based monochrome styles of Visual Studio 2012 makes life as a Windows developer far harder than it needs to be, so it turns out that they are actively making it more difficult to develop for the new Windows UI."

Visual Studio 2012 Update 2 has an extra theme, which restores the appearance of 2010, makes my life slightly easier!

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Right And Right. Or Right And Wrong. Or Wrong And Right.

"Former Microsoft Windows chief: I was right to kill the Start button"

And Microsoft was right to fire him.

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Holmes

Re: Right And Right. Or Right And Wrong. Or Wrong And Right.

Yet Windows 8.1's UI is still a dog's breakfast.

What's going on inside Microsoft? Anyone know?

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Re: Right And Right. Or Right And Wrong. Or Wrong And Right.

Not even Microsoft know that answer, is supect thats the main problem.

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wise words

In closing Ubuntu's bug #1 ('Microsoft has majority share') Mark Shuttleworth said the following:

'it's better for us to focus our intent on excellence in our own right, rather than our impact on someone else's product.'

If Microsoft could adopt the same philosophy I think we would all benefit.

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Mushroom

Re: wise words

They will not do it, no one on the IT industry does it any more, and the few companies who do not engage in copying each other's farts, engage in patent trolling.

The IT industry is bollocks lately.

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Re: wise words

Except. Ubuntu Unity is also a complete dogs dinner. So much so, my home laptop is now running Mint.

(Main home desktop still on Windows 7 and have absolutely no intention of moving, work laptop on Windows 8 because I need to be able to teach other suckers who fell into the trap how to use it).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: wise words

Says the guy who is trying to produce alternatives to iTunes and many other things Apple does.

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Sales = Money, surely?

"there is absolutely no correlation between licences sold and devices actually in the hands of users."

But there is a direct correlation between licences sold and cash going to Microsoft, right? Why should they care about anything else?

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Re: Sales = Money, surely?

I should imagine that the licenses have been purchased 'on account'.

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Re: Sales = Money, surely?

They care because no one is going to buy more until they use all the ones they already bought.

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Happy

Re: Sales = Money, surely? (@ nuked)

"I should imagine that the licenses have been purchased 'on account'."

And if they weren't purchased on account, the next batch of licenses surely will.

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