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Gates Stepping Back from Microsoft

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates announced today that he plans to step back from Microsoft’s day-to-day operations over the next two years to focus on charitable, global health, and educational work through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“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.”

Gates plans to relinquish day-to-day roles at Microsoft by July 2008, although he was emphatic that he is not leaving the company he co-founded with Paul Allen in 1975. Microsoft is wasting no time getting underway with the transition, announcing Chief Technical Officer Ray Ozzie will immediately assume Gate’s title of Chief Software Architect and begin working with gates on technical and oversight duties. Chief Technical Officer Craig Mundie will immediately take the new title of Chief of Research and Strategy and begin working with Gates to oversee the company’s R&D efforts. Gates plans to retain his title as Chairman.

The move is another step in Microsoft’s gradual expansion of its senior management team, which began in earnest when Gates relinquished the title of Chief Executive Officer to Steve Ballmer in 2000.

Ray Ozzie came to Microsoft in April 2005 with the acquisition of Groove Networks, although he’s a longtime veteran of the software business, helping to develop Lotus Notes and, before that, the first computer spreadsheet application VisiCalc. Craig Mundie has been with Microsoft since 1992 and currently runs Microsoft’s Consumer Platforms Division, and spearheaded Microsoft’s efforts in the areas of digital television, trustworthy computing, and technology policy.

Since its founding in 2000, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has become one of the world’s leading charitable organizations, funding programs in education, HIV/AIDS research and prevention, global health, and international relief.