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BBC's Rory Cellan Jones reports
"Bill Gates may just fancy a life out of the spotlight"
 real 28k

Bill Gates describes his new role
"I will dedicate myself nearly 100% to software"
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Kate Noble
There will be no fallout on the markets
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Friday, 14 January, 2000, 12:55 GMT
Gates steps down - but the fight goes on

Bill Gates Bill Gates is to become "chief software architect"

Bill Gates has announced that Steve Ballmer will take over as chief executive of Microsoft, the world's largest software company.

Mr Gates said he would stay on as chairman of the company's board and dedicate himself to work on Microsoft's software development.

What I'm best at, and what I want to focus on, is the software strategy
Bill Gates

Mr Gates said he was handing over to his longtime friend Steve Ballmer so that he could return "to what I love most - focusing on technologies for the future".

The move comes at a delicate time for Microsoft, which is facing the threat of a break-up as a result of an anti-trust suit by the US government.

Chief software architect

Adding to the title of chairman, Mr Gates will now also be known as Microsoft's "chief software architect".

He said he wanted to help drive "the next generation Windows internet platform and services".

Steve Ballmer Steve Ballmer: the new man at the helm
Bill Gates, the world's richest man with an estimated fortune of $100bn, had already turned over much of the day-to-day operations to Mr Ballmer during the past year and a half.

He served as chief executive of Microsoft since he co-founded it 25 years ago.

However, the announcement does not necessarily mean that Mr Gates is giving up any power in the Seattle-based software giant.

He is bound to continue having a huge influence on setting Microsoft's strategy.

Breaking up Microsoft would be reckless and irresponsible
Steve Ballmer, new Microsoft chief executive
In a first reaction, analyst Bill Epifanio at investment bank JP Morgan said: "I think it's positive ... The shift from the PC over to internet is a very important and clear trend ... and it's great that Microsoft has taken steps to focus Bill Gates' efforts at probably what he does absolutely the best, which is lay out these types of strategies and product designs."

Addressing Microsoft's troubles

The handover of power comes at a crucial moment for the company, as it faces the US government in a long and bitter antitrust trial over alleged anti-competitive behaviour.

There have been suggestions that Microsoft might be broken up into several companies.

Speaking after his appointment, Mr Ballmer immediately joined the fray saying it would be "reckless" and "irresponsible" to break up the company.

Technological future

Both Mr Gates and Mr Ballmer described the 1990s as the "software decade" and said they wanted to make sure that Microsoft could build on its successes.

The firm's new "chief software architect" said the company was trying to find a management structure that would allow it to revolutionise the company's software products.

He said that by "getting all our management team and resources grouped around the software strategy", the company could defend its position in the industry.

In a statement, the company said that "the first internet-based platform of Next Generation Windows Services" would be at the core of Microsoft's strategy.

New products and services would "incorporate such features and capabilities as a new user interface, natural language processing, application development approach", and a new file system.

Mr Ballmer said he was "very excited" to take over at these "amazing times full of remarkable opportunities".

AOL/Time Warner Special Report
He insisted that the company would stay tightly focused on software and predicted there would be no mega-mergers for his firm.

Mr Gates supported this view, saying that "it's not on our agenda to go out and buy a big content company", an allusion to the merger of America Online and Time Warner earlier this week.

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See also:
14 Jan 00 |  Business
Profile: Bill Gates
13 Jan 00 |  Business
Steve Ballmer, friend of Bill
14 Jan 00 |  Business
Q&A: Gates steps down
14 Jan 00 |  Business
Microsoft's next move
20 Jan 99 |  The Company File
The software superpower
13 Jan 00 |  Business
Microsoft 'facing split'
22 Oct 99 |  Sci/Tech
Gates on 'future without Microsoft'
22 Jul 98 |  The Company File
Microsoft's new president
13 Jan 00 |  Business
Caldera vs Microsoft - the settlement
11 Jan 00 |  Business
Microsoft settles Caldera antitrust case

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