Steve Ballmer: Sinofsky was "amazing"

November 15, 2012: 6:59 AM ET

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman interviewed the Microsoft chief last night in Silicon Valley.

By Kurt Wagner, reporter

FORTUNE -- Last night, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer spoke publicly for the first time since last week's surprising departure of Windows Chief Steven Sinofsky. Sinofsky, widely seen as a potential successor to Ballmer, had been in charge of the crucial Windows unit, which just launched its latest iteration. The touchy topic of his break with the company was breached, albeit briefly, during a question and answer event in Silicon Valley.

LinkedIn (LNKD) co-founder Reid Hoffman, who was asking the questions, brought up Sinofsky right away. The question was more or less obligatory, given the timing of the event. (Though, that didn't stop Fortune from throwing a few dozen more ideas for hard questions out there before the event.) Those hoping for grand insight into what happened at Microsoft (MSFT) were disappointed.

MORE: A few crucial questions for Steve Ballmer

This is what Ballmer said: "Steven has made one of the most amazing contributions anybody will ever make to any company in terms of guiding a lot of our key activities and doing sort of great work on our engineering systems. We wish him well and he's always recommended if you're going to make a change, you make it on product boundary, and he's living his principles so to speak. And certainly we wish him well."

The duo moved on quickly to other topics, mostly Windows 8-related. The talk failed to shed much light on why Sinofsky got the boot less than a month after that new product's release. Sinofsky had been with Microsoft more than 23 years.

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