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Gates quits CEO post at Microsoft; Gates stepping down
Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates stepped back to his
geek roots yesterday, relinquishing his CEO's title and
day-to-day control of the world's largest software company to
second-in-command Steve Ballmer.
Gates, who has been sharply critical of the on-going
antitrust case against Microsoft and has served as a lightning
rod for Microsoft critics, gave no hint that his move was made
to deflect a reported plan by the Justice Department to break
the giant company into three parts.
Asked if that were a motive for yesterday's announcement,
Ballmer took the microphone.
"I think it'd be absolutely reckless and irresponsible for
anyone to try and break up this company," Ballmer said. "I
think it'd be the biggest disservice anyone could do to
consumers in this country."
Industry observers, however, disagreed on what motivated
Gates and Ballmer to unveil the management change yesterday.
"To some extent, it was a reaction to the story we've seen
the last few days that the Department of Justice plans to
propose a break- up of Microsoft," said Nicholas Economides
, an economics professor at New York University's Leonard
N. Stern School of Business.
Jonathan Zuck, president of The Association for Competitive
Technology in Washington, said he didn't see the move as a
"They haven't shown themselves to be masters of media
management," Zuck said. "The management change was something
to reassure stockholders and customers: Despite what's going
on, they remain focused on their core business.-"
Ballmer and Gates mostly discussed how they would execute
Microsoft's next vision.
When asked which of their competitors should be most
concerned, Ballmer said, "It should concern all of them."
Gates will remain chairman and take on the new title of
"chief software architect," saying he plans to dedicate his
time working on the developing new computer technology.
"I might be threatening to write (software) code again,"
Gates, 44, is the richest man in the world, largely due to
his stake of about 15 percent in Microsoft. He co-founded
Microsoft with friend Paul Allen in 1975, and has run the
software giant since its inception.
Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1980 and became president in
July 1998. Gates said Ballmer also will become a Microsoft
director on Jan. 27.
Ballmer, 43, is ranked as the fourth-richest American,
according to Forbes magazine, primarily from his almost 5
percent stake in Microsoft. He attended Harvard University
with Gates and graduated with a degree in applied math and
Ballmer has spearheaded Microsoft's efforts to be more
responsive to customers' needs and new technologies. He's held
several positions since joining Microsoft in 1980, including
executive vice president of sales and support. Prior to
joining Microsoft, he was an assistant product manager at
Procter & Gamble Co.
When asked how Microsoft would respond to the merger of
America Online Inc. and Time Warner Inc., Ballmer simply said:
"Our business is software."
"I don't anticpate the need of megamergers to get that
done," Ballmer continued. "They didn't acquire a lot of
software designers this week."