Bill Gates to step down

Bill Gates

KAI RYSSDAL: Microsoft waited until after the close today to drop its little bomb. Bill Gates is quitting his day job. He's handing over his responsibilities as chief software architect of the company. That's effective as of right now. Gates will be easing out of his other positions over the next two years. He'll stay on as chairman of the board though. Our business editor Cheryl Glaser tells us what's going on.


CHERYL GLASER: It's like Walt Disney without Mickey Mouse. McDonald's without hamburgers. Bill Gates announced today that he plans to give up day-to-day responsibilities at the company he helped create more than 30 years ago.
BILL GATES:"Today I'm working full-time for Microsoft and part-time for the Gates Foundation. Starting two years I will shift to work full-time for the foundation and part-time for Microsoft as Chairman and a technical adviser."

ROB ENDERLE:"This is not a surprise."

Analyst Rob Enderle with the Enderle Group says Gates had made it clear that he wanted to cut back on his direct involvement with Microsoft so he could spend more time on philanthropic work. This announcement paves the way for that to happen.

But while the move was expected, Enderle says the departure of an icon like Gates is still a major change both inside the company and out.

ENDERLE: "A founder of a company affects the personality of that company probably more than anybody else. When the Watsons left IBM, it changed the company culture, it changed the way the company was and felt."

But Microsoft appears to have been getting ready for this. A year ago, they hired Ray Ozzie, one of the former leading lights at Lotus Software. He'll now take over Gates' job as chief software architect.

Enderle says there's no question Ozzie has the necessary smarts and experience for the gig. The issue is whether he has the necessary leadership skills and stature to lead a big multi-national icon. But Enderle says fresh blood at the top could also be a good thing for Microsoft.

ENDERLE: And so you may find that Microsoft actually reacts a bit more quickly to things now. You may find them to be a bit more vibrant.

And that could be a plus for an industry giant that dominates the market, but has had to slip the delivery date on the newest version of its Windows software to early next year.

I'm Cheryl Glaser for Marketplace.

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