After Sinofsky, Microsoft must stop the secrecy, say analysts

With Windows' secretive chief out, Microsoft's best move is to bring OEMs, developers and customers back into the loop

The best move Microsoft could make after Steven Sinofsky's departure is to ditch the culture of secrecy he brought to Windows, analysts said today.

"One thing that may be a benefit to Microsoft is to drop the belief that information non-disclosure is a critical component of development," said Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, a research firm that focuses on the Redmond, Wash. company's moves.

"When you distance your evangelists from the information they need to succeed, you hurt yourself," added Miller. "[The secrecy] over Windows 8 did not help their case."

Sinofsky, 47, and a 23-year veteran of Microsoft, either vacated his position as president of the Windows division of his own accord Monday, or was fired by CEO Steve Ballmer. Microsoft promoted Julie Larson-Green, a Sinofsky lieutenant and Window's chief designer, to head all Windows software and hardware engineering, and gave CFO Tami Reller responsibility for the business side of Windows.

Sinofsky's exit was a surprise to most Microsoft watchers, although in the days since several have claimed they had heard rumors of his impending departure, or noted signs that in hindsight predicted the move.

While analysts have been mixed this week on the impact Sinofsky's removal will have on the company and its strategy of tackling mobile devices with Windows 8 and its offspring Windows RT, experts today focused on one key component of Sinofsky's regime: secrecy.

In his time running Office development -- he oversaw Office 2000, Office XP, Office 2003 and Office 2007 -- Sinofsky earned reputations for secrecy as well as for completing projects on time. He brought both with him when he took over Windows in 2006, immediately after the finalization of Windows Vista.

His proclivity to play cards close to the vest may have worked for Office, but it couldn't in the larger ecosystem of Windows, another analyst argued.

"You can develop Office in silence," said Michael Cherry, also of Directions on Microsoft. "There are few outside developers for Office. But I'd argue that you cannot develop an operating system that way."

Windows, unlike Office, relies on a whole host of supporting players outside Microsoft, from the device and peripheral makers -- dubbed OEMs for "original equipment manufacturers" -- to independent software vendors (ISVs) and the company's largest enterprise customers.

Complaints of a lack of information about Windows 8, Windows RT and the designed-by-Microsoft Surface RT tablet -- all of which launched Oct. 26 -- have been rife for months. Developers bemoaned the lack of Windows RT hardware they said was necessary to write apps, or optimize those they'd already crafted. OEMs griped about out-of-the-blue moves by Microsoft, like the sudden announcement last summer that the company was creating its own tablets. Enterprises tried to puzzle out the licensing of the new software, including Office RT, or how new devices running Windows RT were to be managed.

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