Redmond, Wash. — Bill Gates, founder and chairman of Microsoft, announced Thursday afternoon that he 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.”
Ozzie, 50, worked on the first electronic spreadsheet, VisiCalc, in the early 1980s, then joined Lotus Development 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 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 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.
Gates, 50, started Microsoft in 1975 with childhood friend Paul Allen. He took Microsoft public in 1986 and was the company’s chairman and CEO until 2000, when Ballmer took over as CEO. For the past six years Gates has focused on Microsoft’s software development as the company’s chairman and chief software architect. In 2000, with his wife, he formed the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, whose assets now are $29.1 billion.