Microsoft's next Steve: Windows boss faces biggest test

Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:06am EST
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By Bill Rigby

SEATTLE (Reuters) - For Steven Sinofsky, the stern but creative engineering manager who runs Microsoft Corp's flagship Windows division, February 29 is showtime.

On that day, in Barcelona, Sinofsky will preside over the public test release of the Windows 8 operating system, the most important new version of Microsoft's cornerstone product in a decade. Optimized for touch computing and low-power microprocessors, Windows 8 will run on tablets as well as desktops and laptops - and maybe even on phones in the future.

If it takes off, it could extend one of the most lucrative franchises in business history and restore some cachet to the fading Microsoft brand.

It could also propel Sinofsky to the top job at the company when CEO Steve Ballmer eventually steps down.

Frank Artale, managing director at Seattle-based venture capital firm Ignition, which was founded by a group of former Microsoft executives, said Sinofsky has both "the tech chops" and the "panache and showmanship" needed for the job.

Supporters credit Sinofsky with bringing order to the sometimes-chaotic software development process at Microsoft - partly by cutting layers of management through what is now referred to internally as "Sinofskyization" - and getting products out the door.

Critics say he lacks the necessary charisma for the top job, and question whether he has the technical brilliance of Gates or the incisive analytical ability and forceful personality of Ballmer .

Most agree, though, that a strong performance for Windows 8 would all but make him the heir apparent.   Continued...

Microsoft Windows President Steven Sinofsky introduces Windows 8 at the Build conference in Anaheim, California, in this September 13, 2011, file photo. REUTERS/Alex Gallardo/Files