Bill Gates to transition out of a day-to-day role in Microsoft

Microsoft’s press release verbatim:

REDMOND, Wash. — June 15, 2006 — Microsoft Corp. today announced that effective July 2008 Bill Gates, chairman, will transition out of a day-to-day role in the company to spend more time on his global health and education work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The company announced a two-year transition process to ensure that there is a smooth and orderly transfer of Gates’ daily responsibilities, and said that after July 2008 Gates would continue to serve as the company’s chairman and an advisor on key development projects

The company announced that Chief Technical Officer Ray Ozzie will immediately assume the title of chief software architect and begin working side by side with Gates on all technical architecture and product oversight responsibilities, to ensure a smooth transition. Similarly, Chief Technical Officer Craig Mundie will immediately take the new title of chief research and strategy officer and will work closely with Gates to assume his responsibility for the company’s research and incubation efforts; Mundie also will partner with general counsel Brad Smith to guide Microsoft’s intellectual property and technology policy efforts.

“Our business and technical leadership has never been stronger, and Microsoft is well-positioned for success in the years ahead. I feel very fortunate to have such great technical leaders like Ray and Craig at the company,” Gates said. “I remain fully committed and full time at Microsoft through June 2008 and will be working side by side with Ray and Craig to ensure that a smooth transition occurs.”

“This was a hard decision for me,” Gates added. “I’m very lucky to have two passions that I feel are so important and so challenging. As I prepare for this change, I firmly believe the road ahead for Microsoft is as bright as ever.”

In September 2005 Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer organized the company into three divisions under presidents Jim Allchin, Kevin Johnson, Robbie Bach and Jeff Raikes, who were given much greater responsibility for product development and strategy decisions within their respective businesses. In August 2005 the company appointed Kevin Turner as chief operating officer.

“Bill and I are confident we’ve got a great team that can step up to fill his shoes and drive Microsoft innovation forward without missing a beat,” Ballmer said. “We will continue to hire the world’s best technical talent and give them the tools to do their best work, and we will continue to tackle the biggest challenges and opportunities for our customers by investing for the long term.”

Ballmer and Gates noted that Microsoft has been steadily expanding its senior leadership in recent years, and that today’s announcement continues a transition process that has been underway for several years. In January 2000, Gates assumed the role of chief software architect and Ballmer assumed the role of CEO, responsible for all day-to-day operations and company business strategy.

“This is a very sensible and thorough approach. A two-year transition will ensure that the company has a smooth transfer of strategy and knowledge from Bill to the next generation of leaders,” said James I. Cash, Ph.D., member of the Microsoft board of directors and former James E. Robison Professor, Harvard Business School. “Steve and his management team are very impressive, and I’m confident the company will not miss a step.”

Ozzie, 50, worked on the first electronic spreadsheet, VisiCalc, in the early 1980s, then joined Lotus Development Corp. in 1983 to develop Lotus Symphony, an MS-DOS-based integrated software management product that combined word processing, spreadsheet, business graphics, data management and communications capabilities. In 1984, Ozzie formed Iris Associates Inc. to develop Lotus Notes. In 1997 Ozzie founded Groove Networks, where he developed Groove Virtual Office. Microsoft acquired Groove Networks in April 2005 and named Ozzie chief technical officer.

Mundie, 56, joined Microsoft in 1992 to create and run the Consumer Platforms Division, which was responsible for developing non-PC platform and service offerings including the Microsoft® Windows CE operating system; software for handheld PCs, Pocket PCs and Auto PCs; and early telephony products. Mundie also started Microsoft’s digital TV efforts and acquired and managed the WebTV Networks Inc. subsidiary. Mundie is also the original champion of the Trustworthy Computing Initiative at Microsoft, which has influenced Microsoft’s software development strategy. His current responsibilities also include global technology policy and a variety of technical and business incubation activities.

Ozzie and Mundie will continue to report to Gates. At an appropriate time during the two-year transition period, they will shift to reporting to Ballmer.

MacDailyNews Take: Buh-bye, Bill. No sense sticking around for the decline and fall, of course. Bill’s lifting his helicopter off the Titanic just in time. Apple will thrive regardless of what happens, but having Ballmer left to captain the ship sure won’t hurt the Cupertino Mac- and iPod-maker. We believe it can only help.

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72 Comments

  1. I guess the heat got too much in the kitchen and he took the old bit of sage advice, “If you can’t stand the heat…”

    However, I agree with others that if spends his time helping the less fortunate with his money and influence, I can’t think of a better way to spend his ill-gotten gains. Why does this remind me of Robin Hood — steal from the rich and gullible and give to those who are living off the crumbs of our first world civilization.

    MW: going, going, …

  2. From TFA:

    “…Working full time at Microsoft through June 2008, Gates then will continue as chairman and advisor while increasing Foundation efforts; Ray Ozzie and Craig Mundie to assume expanded roles.”

    So Microsoft will have a new Chief Software Architect. That’s the news.

  3. This generation of the giants of the industry are passing on & Jobs may not be too far behind. The fifties are when you can be the person you always meant to be. Bill likes using his wealth to help others. Good for him. I shun MS products (‘cept Word for now..) but I have nothing against the Mr. Gates.

    I think he maybe trodding the same path as robber barrons of the 19th Century & do some serious good from his vast fortune.

    Carnegie, Nobel, Rockefeller etc are remembered more for their philanthropy than the cut throat way they got to the top. I bet Bill will be hanging around with Bono and helping focus the world on Africa.

    I do like how he & his wife are not planning on leaving a lot to their kids, & will disburse most of their funds.

    MDN word is District… as in “Di strict view of Gates as just a bad guy is too narrow.”

  4. Being the actual chief software architect does make Gates partly responsible for the mess that is Vista together with Alchin. I’m sad to see them leave.

    On the bright side, Ozzie is the man who brough us that piece of crap that is Lotus Notes. Welcome aboard Ozzie, may you stay for many many long years.

    MW: Long

  5. “Bill and I are confident we’ve got a great team that can step up to fill his shoes and drive Microsoft innovation forward without missing a beat,” Ballmer said.”

    I had a 1990 VW Golf that wouldn’t start. It drove just like Microsoft’s innovation.

    Seriously though, I’d really rather MS morphed into “good guys” instead of going out of business. That’s never going to happen with Ballmer in charge. Gates now has an opportunity to scrape the taint from his soul. Best of luck.

  6. in all fairness, I mean I don’t care much for microsmutt, but I do wish Bill the best in his quest to help world hunger..I mean, after all his foundation has done some good..joking aside, I can respect that…

  7. Tend to agree with MDN’s take on this one. But holy cow, what a bunch of old farts at the top of MS. I mean its ok to be an old fart (‘specially since I’m one), just as long as you don’t operate like one. Has MS forgotten that it was young blood that got them into the ranks of successful businesses? What’s the goal in corporate America now: Hire every white male old fart that came off of Noah’s ark. Geez. In the high-tech industries I always look for manufacturers that have people under 40 somewhere near the top.

    Microsoft – What a freakin behemoth.

  8. MP, what are you smoking? Bill Gates was “one of the greatest visionaries of our time”?!?!?!?!? I don’t know what third rate history book you’ve been reading, but it ain’t right. Bill Gates has been so far behind the curve in his “visionary” role, it’s not even funny. Bill made his fortune by purchasing MS-DOS from someone else and convincing IBM to use it as their operating system. He made a great business deal. He was not visionary.

    After that, he used that money to buy up other companies from people that really were visionary. He then shuttered those companies, with an end result of the general public missing out on some cool technology.

    He moved forward with Windows 3.1. Do you remember that piece of crap. Was that visionary? Hell no! It was a horrible imitation of the Mac OS.

    Visionary? This is the guy that said that the internet was going nowhere and so his company didn’t bother doing anything with it until Netscape had a really cool product. So, Bill had his company make a cheap knockoff and forced it down people’s throats illegally until he ran Netscape out of business.

    He’s also the same guy that comes out every year and spouts off about ” In the future, we will control our computers with voice, not with mice.” Yeah, this was years after my Quadra 660AV could accept voice commands.

    Bill Gates has NEVER been a visionary. He’s a very shrewd businessman that has never played by the rules.

  9. Jimbo,

    In your analysis of Gates, you yourself have described a “visionary.”

    It takes a ‘Visionary” to do the things you mentioned. It takes a “visionary” to recognize the potential of scooping up talent and where it can take you.

    Like it or not, an empire like Microsoft does not happen by accident. True, it was a lot of right time at the right place, but it takes a “visionary” to see those things.

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