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Sinofsky for Microsoft CEO?

After his command performance at Microsoft Build, there's a drumbeat emerging for Steven Sinofsky to be the next CEO at Microsoft.

Sinofsky oversaw the unveiling of Windows 8 in Anaheim, Calif., this month and his control-heavy, secrecy-focused approach to releasing technical details helped generate excitement around some sneak peeks of the OS in late May and June.

The infamous anonymous mid-level Microsoft manager who blogs at Mini-Microsoft on Wednesday wrote: "psst. Board. CEO ma-ter-ial. Uh-huh. There you go. Not that I'd probably work in a SteveSi CEO Microsoft, but ya could do a lot worse!"

Picking up on the theme was Microsoft watcher Tom Warren at winrumors, who noted: "Don't be surprised if Sinofsky is named Microsoft CEO following a roaring success with Windows 8. The company's bets lay firmly on his head and it seems inevitable that he will succeed Ballmer over the next couple of years."

And both referenced longtime Microsoft blogger Joe Wilcox who last week compared Sinofsky to Steve Jobs.

The standard case for Sinofsky involves his stewardship of Windows 8 so far and his work in turning around the Windows franchise after the Vista debacle for the Windows 7 release, which so far has sold around 450 million licenses.

His under-promise/over-deliver approach notwithstanding, his success with Windows 7 is less impressive when you remember that the Vista failure was driven by Bill Gates' overreach. As chief software architect, Gates was famously involved in much of the design of Vista and, knowing it was his swan song, was trying to shoehorn many of his ambitious pet technologies, such as WinFS, into the OS. At the time, and probably still, there was no one within Microsoft with the stature to tell Gates to scale back, although Jim Allchin had the unenviable task of finally convincing Gates that major pieces had to be dropped if the OS were to ship on a reasonable timeline. For Windows 7, Sinofsky didn't have to try to manage Gates, as well as the project.

That said, Sinofsky delivered a remarkable, and remarkably successful and well-received, version of Windows as a follow-on, which was absolutely critical for Microsoft. (And there's nothing easy about quarterbacking any release of Windows.)

What's also impressive about Sinofsky's past is that he ran Microsoft's other crown jewel, the Office franchise, and built a reputation there for meeting ship targets with quality products.

The key (in addition to whether Steve Ballmer would let go of the company) is how Windows 8 fares. It's a vastly different type of project than Windows 7. With Windows 7, Sinofsky needed to get Windows back on track. With Windows 8, he's setting the operating environment on an entirely new set of tracks. He's proven an ability to execute with Windows 7 and Office. If Windows 8 is a winner, he'll have the vision thing, too.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 23, 2011