Sinofsky’s Microsoft shares are worth about US$35 million, according to regulatory filings.
Although not a natural performer, Sinofsky enjoys showing off his product.
His perky unveiling of the first test version of Windows 8 in September last year showed he has a rapport with developers, even getting a laugh out of them by joking that Microsoft updates its Task Manager program “every 15 years or so.” However, he isn’t to everybody’s taste.
“I don’t think people care for his presentation style. He’s one of those super-intelligent types that come off as a little dry,” said Ryan Lowdermilk, who hosts a popular podcast for apps builders and attended the unveiling of Windows 8 to developers last year.
“But developers respect people who ship product. That’s what people like about him the most,” he added.
One-to-one, he is all business. Several reporters have received an icy, wordless glare when they ask a tough question.
Mini-Microsoft, the anonymous insider whose blog is a locus of informed criticism of the company, has called him “Spock-meets-Spartan.”
In his 13th year as CEO, Ballmer has presided over huge growth in sales and profit, but he’s had his critics from the day he started the job.
Despite hitting four-year highs last week, the stock is still at the same level it was a decade ago and Microsoft’s market value is only just over half of Apple’s.
The criticism reached a peak in May last year, when outspoken hedge fund manager David Einhorn — whose Greenlight Capital owned only about 0.1 percent of Microsoft shares at the time — said the company had a strong future, but it was time for Ballmer to step down and “give someone else a chance.”
Contacted on Monday, Einhorn declined to add to those remarks or to comment on Sinofsky.
A successful Windows 8 could help silence the critics. It would also give a big boost to Sinofsky.
Not everyone thinks he’s is the right man for the job.
“Bill Gates had the most amazing mind I’ve ever encountered. You could show him a PowerPoint slide and he would ask why it was different from the one you showed him three years ago,” another former Microsoft executive said. “Steve Ballmer is the most intuitively mathematical person I’ve ever worked with. Steve [Sinofsky] is neither of those things.”
However, unless Microsoft goes outside of the company for its next leader, which would be a surprise, Sinofsky dominates the field.
Some people feel the company should recognize that publicly and be more clear about its succession planning.
“Sinofsky is an executor, he can deliver,” one large institutional shareholder said.
“They [Microsoft] should be able to provide more transparency to the depth of bench — to demystify the inner circle of management. In the absence of providing that, you get non-productive chatter. It would serve them well to nip that in the bud,” the shareholder added.