The next Windows chief, Steven Sinofsky, is beginning to make his presence felt in Microsoft's Windows organization, even before Windows Vista is out the door.
On Aug. 1, Microsoft announced internally to its employees some of the changes that it is making to the Windows organization. Among the most sweeping of these is the reassignment of Brian Valentine, senior vice president of Microsoft's Core Operating System Division.
"After Windows Vista RTM, Brian Valentine will transition into a new role and contribute in another (unspecified) area for the company," said a Microsoft spokeswoman via an e-mail statement.
Windows Vista is currently set to go to manufacturing this fall. Microsoft officials are planning to release Vista code to volume licensees in November and to launch the product in January 2007.
"The coming move of Brian Valentine and retirement of Jim Allchin signal the end of an era for Windows," said Joe Wilcox, an analyst with Jupiter Research. "Recently, it's an era marred by endless product delays. Brian's move is surprising, and yet it's not. Apparently, the new leadership will bring in new people. It's not unusual for new leaders to bring in people they are familiar with."
Valentine, a 19-year Microsoft veteran, has been in charge of Windows development since December 1998. Known for stunts from wearing tutus to flipping pancakes to keep up the Windows team's morale, Valentine has been a popular figure among the Microsoft development troops.
Effective immediately, Valentine will be sharing his job with Jon DeVaan, Senior Vice President of Engineering.
"Jon will drive Windows operating system development, cross platform integration and work closely with Steven Sinofsky on the products and services coming on the heels of Windows Vista," according to Microsoft's statement.
DeVaan, a 20-year Microsoft veteran, currently manages the engineering standards used to create Microsoft's software products. He previously led Microsoft's Desktop Applications Division, and spearheaded the initial design of Microsoft Office 2000, as well as served as vice president of development for Office 95 and Office 97.
Both DeVaan and Valentine are now reporting directly to Kevin Johnson, who is the co-president of Microsoft's Platform and Services Division.
Microsoft announced in March that it was moving long-time Office development chief Sinofsky to run Windows and Windows Live development. Sinofsky is seen inside Microsoft as a task master who is good at deliver new product releases on time.
Valentine isn't the only long-time Windows engineer being reassigned. Senior Technical Fellow David Cutler will be reassigned after Vista is released to manufacturing to "go to work directly with (Chief Software Architect) Ray Ozzie on initiatives focused on Live products and services," Microsoft officials said.
Another key driver in the existing Core Operating System division, Corporate Vice President Amitabh Srivastava, also will be reporting directly to Ozzie, post Vista's release to manufacturing. Srivastava currently oversees the development of core operating system components such as the kernel and operating system architecture, definition of development processes, and development of advanced tools to automate the development processes.
Microsoft also is moving Technical Fellow Gary Flake and his LiveLabs team directly under Ozzie.
"They (Flake and his team) will continue and broaden their work in online services incubation and research projects in order to contribute to the entire company's services efforts," according to Microsoft's official statement.
While some company watchers are portraying the move as a housecleaning of the Windows organization, following the past six-plus years of Vista development troubles, others say the changes won't get at the root of the problem at Microsoft.
"The basic problem has to do with MS's upper middle management on Windows," said one developer close to Microsoft, who requested anonymity. "Microsoft thought it was a good idea to promote developers to managers. And it's cost them. What's happening is that the managers just aren't getting things done. They have no concept of how to organize resources."
At Microsoft's Financial Analyst Meeting on July 27, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer reiterated his disappointment with the decisions Microsoft made in developing Vista.
"We will never repeat our experience with Windows Vista again, we will never have a five-year gap between major releases of flagship products. But we will have people who are working on innovations that take more than a couple of years or so to do, we just won't promise them to customers and hold up whole releases. We will innovate and integrate more than we will engage in integrated innovation," Ballmer told Wall Street analysts and press attending last week's event.