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Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows division, is leaving the company immediately, weeks after the release of Windows 8, which he led, the company said Monday evening.

Sinofsky, 47, has shepherded the development of two versions of Microsoft's chief product, the 2009 release of Windows 7 and last month's launch of Windows 8, the first time the operating system has been revamped to work on touch-screen devices as well as traditional keyboard-and-mouse computers, The Wall Street Journal reports.

His sudden departure may raise questions about the success of Windows 8 and about his relationship with CEO Steve Ballmer. Sinofsky had been seen as a contender to succeed Ballmer, but some people close to Microsoft told the Journal doubts about his ability to collaborate with other senior executives made him unlikely to become CEO.

"I am grateful for the many years of work that Steven has contributed to the company," Ballmer said in a brief statement. A Microsoft spokesman declined to comment further.

Sinofsky's duties will be taken on by longtime lieutenants Julie Larson-Green, an engineering executive who will lead Windows hardware and software, and Tami Reller, the marketing chief and chief financial officer of the Windows division.

Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi told Reuters the departure seemed sudden and it was odd that there was no handover period.

"Many link this to the modest sales of Surface, but it is hard to think it all boils down to that," she said.

While there was a lot riding on the Surface tablet, the departure may have more to do with the kind of change that Surface signified in the Microsoft business model toward hardware, Milanesi said.