In this weekly column, our journalist Mark Raby gives his insight on one big rumor, news story, or trend that developed over the past week.
There's only one tech news story this week that was heard all around the globe, from the US to Australia, from the Internet to TV to newspapers. I'm referring of course to the announcement by Bill Gates that he will leave his executive chair at Microsoft to pursue more full-time work with his philanthropic foundation.Of course, this move will not actually take place until mid-2008. But don't be fooled. Changes are already happening in the ranks of Microsoft as a result of Bill's decision. First off, the man named by Gates as his replacement, Ray Ozzie, has already officially received what was once Gates's exclusive title -- chief software architect. Essentially, Ozzie is already the next Bill Gates (from a title and work standpoint only).
So over the next 2 years, you'll probably be seeing less and less of Gates as Microsoft tries to gain name and face recognition for Ozzie. However, I imagine Gates still working very hard. He'll hardly win an olympic relay race for handing the baton off to Ozzie. It'll be a 2-year baton pass and I have no doubt Gates will be giving it his all up to his final days. So from an innovation standpoint, I don't think things will take a dramatic shift until July 2008. In fact, we may even get a technological boost from Gates, who will probably want to leave his position fresh off the heels of a big new invention or concept.
After 2008, though, the company may begin to shift. While some may think that Gates's visionary mastery for Microsoft will lead the company to a decline of growth, I disagree. I have no doubt that the reason Gates is leaving is not just because he wants to grow as a humanitarian. That's certainly part of it. But another big part is that he has run his course at Microsoft as a day-to-day high-level executive. He's brought the company as far as he can (which is pretty darn far), and I see this change of power as an opportunity to give Microsoft a new guiding light.
I'm sure Ozzie has a mountain of ideas he's been thinking about that he is thrilled to bring to the forefront with his new position. Also, I personally think Ozzie has a better speaking voice than Gates, and he is more down-to-earth (see video at Cnet). He's not a God-like figure like Gates, so this may be an opportunity also to better connect with the Microsoft consumer-base.
I'll also touch really quickly on the implications of this move for the Xbox, since gamers are a big part of the overall Microsoft audience. Really, I don't think this move will affect the Xbox division at all. Gates set up the idea and does have some regular involvement with it, but more than virtually any other division of Microsoft, the Xbox is essentially its own company now, without daily involvement from Gates. Ozzie may have some things to say about the Xbox, but really I don't see a huge direction change. Also, we probably won't get to see Bill Gates at any future Xbox press conferences like the one at this year's E3, and he most likely will not be the one standing next to the person who buys the first Xbox 720 for a publicity shot, but other than that I see the Xbox market pretty much unscathed as a result of Bill's stepping down.
So what am I saying in a nutshell? Basically, we will all miss Bill Gates being "the" name behind Microsoft, but in his 21 years, Bill has made the company stand pretty tall and pretty strong, so even if there's a little turbulence at first, I'm sure Microsoft will continue to soar. And hey, if Google ends up overtaking Microsoft, at least Bill will be able to say, "Hey, it wasn't my fault. Blame Ray."
Feature published by: Mark Raby
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