We can almost hear it now, echoing through Microsoft’s Redmond campus: “That is the stupidest f-ing thing I’ve ever heard!”
OK, so Bill Gates might not have the bite that he once did, but a new era of Microsoft leaders will get a taste, at least, of the technology icon’s legendary product reviews.
As part of the leadership changes announced by the company this morning, Gates is stepping down as Microsoft chairman, but the company is being careful to characterize the change as Gates “stepping up” his commitment to Microsoft in the role of technology adviser to Satya Nadella, the new Microsoft CEO.
Toward the end of this Microsoft video talking about Nadella’s ascension to the position, Gates uses the same phrase and gives more details about how much time he’ll be spending in the new role.
“I’m thrilled that Satya has asked me to step up, substantially increasing the time that I spend at the company,” he says. “I’ll have over a third of my time available to meet with product groups, and it will be fun to define this next round of products, working together.”
Apart from the obligatory nod to Nadella asking Gates to take on the expanded role, this move seems designed in part to assure people inside and outside the company that Microsoft is in good hands even as a relatively unknown figure moves into the Microsoft CEO’s office — a position held by only two people previously, Gates and Steve Ballmer.
“The opportunity for Microsoft is greater than ever before,” Gates says. “Whether it’s taking Office and bringing it to interactive documents, letting you find your information in rich ways, securing your information in rich ways, or even building a new platform, a cloud platform, that connects to all sorts of different devices.”
Gates will remain on the board but be replaced as chairman by John Thompson, Microsoft’s lead independent board member, the former CEO of security software firm Symantec.
Gates, who founded Microsoft in 1975 with Paul Allen stepped down from day-to-day duties at the company in 2008, devoting most of his time to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He promised at the time to spend the equivalent of one day a week working on Microsoft projects, but Gates’ role, if any, in the company’s product strategy wasn’t publicly apparent in the latter years of Steve Ballmer’s tenure.