- The Washington Times - Friday, June 16, 2006

Hot flash from The Wall Street Journal’s e-mail server:

Microsoft announced that Chairman Bill Gates will begin transitioning out of his day-to-day role at the software company he founded to spend more time on his charitable work. He will remain chairman of the company and serve as an adviser on key developments.

According to the official Microsoft announcement:

Microsoft Corp. today announced that effective July 2008 Bill Gates, chairman, 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.”

Whatever one thinks of Microsoft and its products — and many computer users will confess to mixed emotions — there’s no doubt that the past 31 years (yes, 31 years) of the company’s existence has literally changed life on Earth as we know it. Not alone, not without the work of others — even rivals — and not without a lot of sturm und drang as the Germans would say, but it’s changed just about everything we do in most of the developed world and much of the developing world.

The continued elevation of Ray Ozzie may well be good news for users. He has a reputation for extreme brilliance and an affinity for serving customers. That might be a hopeful sign for a post-Gates future.

At the same time, Bill Gates, who has done a lot — and endured a lot — in his job deserves the respect and admiration of computer users everywhere. Was he perfect in execution? Probably not. But again, Mr. Gates’ work has changed all of our lives, overall for the better, and a word of thanks is certainly in order.

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