Microsoft’s Windows unit head, once a possible CEO, quits

The executive most widely tipped to be the next chief executive of Microsoft Corp has left the world's largest software maker barely two weeks after launching the flagship Windows 8, as CEO Steve Ballmer moved to tighten his grip on the company.

The exit of 23-year veteran Steven Sinofsky, head of Microsoft's Windows unit, is the latest — and most prominent — in a line of high-profile departures from the Redmond, Washington-based company, which is struggling to keep pace with Apple Inc and Google Inc in mobile computing.

It comes hard on the heels of Sinofsky unveiling the most radical revamp of Windows since 1995, designed to catapult Microsoft back into the forefront of Internet-based, touch-screen technology and reinvigorate a stock price that has been static for the past decade.

The move was unexpected and neither Microsoft nor Sinofsky gave an explanation, although an executive at the company, who asked not to be named, said the decision was "mutual" and said he was not expecting Sinofsky to take a job at another company soon.

Sinofsky, 47, joined Microsoft in 1989 and made his mark as Bill Gates' technical assistant. He grew into an uncompromising leader whose ruthless style of cutting layers of management and formalising the process of software development gave rise to the term "Sinofskyization" in the company.

He wielded immense power as head of the Windows unit, the traditional center of Microsoft's business, but was not known for working well with other executives.

Ballmer, 56, shows no sign of leaving after almost 13 years in the job, despite almost constant criticism. He has now replaced all the leaders of Microsoft's five main operating units in the past four years. He told employees in a memo on Monday simply that: "Steven Sinofsky has decided to leave the company."

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