Bill Gates, technology guru and Microsoft co-founder, has stepped down from his position as chairman of the company and will be assuming a more active role in day-to-day operations. As reported by the New York Times, relinquishing this executive position will allow Gates to focus more on the daily activities of Microsoft, particularly in the realm of product development, where his technical expertise can be utilized.
Microsoft issued a statement explaining the recent turnover at the company, suggesting that Gates will be primarily advising newly minted CEO Satya Nadella and will “devote more time to the company, supporting Nadella in shaping technology and product direction.”
Gates commented on the selection of Nadella, and was effusive in his praise of the new CEO. “During this time of transformation, there is no better person to lead Microsoft than Satya Nadella,” said Gates. “Satya is a proven leader with hard-core engineering skills, business vision and the ability to bring people together.”
Despite the many announcements, there has been an air of mystery surrounding the transition at Microsoft, as many are unclear as to what specific role Gates will be filling with the company going forward. On Monday, in an effort to remain transparent and alleviate any confusion, Gates engaged in a lively session on Reddit’s Ask Me Anything. This concept involves an open question and answer period designed to be as revealing as possible.
Gates was asked a number of questions regarding his new role at Microsoft, and while he did not get too specific, Gates did provide some insight into the future direction of the company:
“I am excited about how the cloud and new devices can help us communicate and collaborate in new ways,” Gates said on Reddit. “The OS won’t just be on one device and the information won’t just be files — it will be your history including being able to review memories of things like kids growing up. I was thrilled Satya asked me to pitch in to make sure Microsoft is ambitious with its innovation. Even in Office there is a lot more than can be done.”
The Reddit platform also served to humanize Gates somewhat, as it can be difficult to relate to someone with a net worth of a Bill Gates. However, Gates displayed a sharp sense of humor during the session, at one point fielding a question about condom design:
“This is a sensitive topic. The idea was that men don’t like the current design so perhaps something they would be more open to would allow for less HIV transmission. We still haven’t gotten the results. One grantee is using carbon nanotubes to reduce the thickness.”
The use of the word sensitive there was clearly not an accident. Well played, Mr. Gates.
While any transition for a company can be challenging, it appears that Microsoft has a good handle on the situation. The new CEO is qualified and experienced, and Gates’ hands on role with the company as a technical advisor can only serve to improve product development in the future. Perhaps there will be more specific information available regarding Gates and his new day-to-day responsibilities going forward.