Bill Gates Steps Down as CEO

After leading Microsoft Corp. to its status as the world’s largest software company, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bill Gates relinquished his CEO position to Steve Ballmer, president of the company.

Gates announced at a press conference Thursday that he will step into his new role as chairman and chief software architect immediately. The management change coincides with the release of the Windows2000 operating system, and is the first step in Microsoft’s (MSFT) strategy to create an Internet-based platform, known as “Next Generation Windows Services.”

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being CEO,” Gates said. “However what I enjoy the most is working with the product group.” He added that in his new role he will be working with development teams, “strategizing as opposed to writing lines of code myself.”

The NGWS platform will be created to power new products and services, incorporating features such as a new user interface, natural language processing, application development approach, schema and new file system.

“Software is our history, and it’s the key, we think, to our future,” Ballmer said at the press conference. “. . .I’m excited to have an opportunity to be a part of this future.” Ballmer will also become a member of Microsoft’s board of directors, effective January 27.

The management change comes in the midst of reports that the Department of Justice may seek to break Microsoft into three parts now that U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who’s hearing the government’s antitrust case, ruled the company was a monopoly.

In response to those reports, Gates said, “It would be absolutely reckless and irresponsible for anyone to break up this company…It would be reckless beyond belief.”

Ballmer added that the success of the company’s new strategy relies on the integration of each of Microsoft’s divisions.

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