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1/22/2014
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Bill Gates Offers Microsoft 'Part-Time' Help

The Microsoft chairman negotiates CEO rumors while focusing on global poverty efforts.

7 Mistakes Microsoft Made In 2013
7 Mistakes Microsoft Made In 2013
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has been making the news media rounds this week to discuss his philanthropic efforts with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the release of his annual letter, dedicated this year to the role of aid programs in eradicating poverty.

Behind him, rumors about Microsoft's next CEO continue to swirl. Recent reports say Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg has joined insiders Satya Nadella and Stephen Elop on the short list of candidates. Reports have also indicated that preferred candidates such as Ford CEO Alan Mulally voluntarily dropped out of the running, due to the influence of Gates and outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer on the Microsoft board.

[Good news for Win XP fans: See Microsoft Delays Windows XP Antivirus Doomsday.]

The speculation inevitably spilled into Gates's news blitz. He told Bloomberg that he won't return as CEO -- a stance he has maintained from the start, despite some hopes to the contrary. He said he plans to dedicate the rest of his life to philanthropy, though he would "help out part-time" at Microsoft.

He also said that Microsoft will move at the right pace and that, even if the Microsoft board felt some urgency to name Ballmer's successor quickly, it would be important to choose the right person.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.

But Gates is a seasoned public figure. Beyond what etiquette dictates, he has been tight lipped about the CEO search. He also used his interviews to opine on social issues, including why he voted to legalize marijuana in Washington. But more than anything else, he was out to dispel the notion that the world's poorest nations are beyond help.

"Don't let anyone tell you that Africa is worse off today than it was 50 years ago," he wrote in his letter. Income per capita has risen substantially. Seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies of the past half-decade are in Africa, and the continent has made substantial progress in health and education.

On the basis of these accomplishments, Gates predicted that, by 2035 no countries will be poor, at least according to the World Bank's current definition, adjusted for inflation. "Inequality will still be a big problem, [with] poor people in every region," but more than 70% of countries will have a higher per capita income than China does today.

Last year, Gates used his letter to emphasize the importance of analytics in addressing the world's problems. For the 2014 edition, he linked progress in developing nations to nonprofit aid efforts.

Foreign aid efforts are sometimes plagued by small-scale corruption and other problems, he wrote, but many programs have proven their worth. "Health aid is a phenomenal investment. When I look at how many fewer children are dying than 30 years ago, and how many people are living longer and healthier lives, I get quite optimistic about the future."

He also discussed the role of health aid in a Washington Post interview. "Capitalism did not eradicate smallpox," he said. "It just doesn't know how. Polio eradication is a work in progress, but it's not being done by markets. So the childhood death reduction, the nutrition improvements, those are overwhelmingly aid-driven."

As for Microsoft, CEO rumors continue to accumulate. Re/code recently reported that Microsoft's board has already made a decision, and that the announcement is being delayed until the hubbub over Gates's letter and the company's earnings have died down. Citing unnamed sources, the website also reported that Ballmer could resign from the board once a new CEO is introduced, though he would still be expected to control around 4% of Microsoft's shares.

Whether or not Microsoft has made a decision, the CEO rumor mill should kick into high gear by Thursday, when it announces its quarterly earnings.

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He graduated from Stanford in 2005 and previously worked in talent representation, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher.

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Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
1/28/2014 | 10:12:09 PM
Re: I can help
Indeed, Gary, not only have Apple and Microsoft been largely able to peaceably co-exist, but Google is a far bigger threat to MSFT than Apple ever was.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
1/28/2014 | 10:11:14 PM
Re: Gates' Legacy
Except that's not his passion.  Gates is all about his Foundation's work now -- not fixing operating systems for whiny techies and fanboys.

Jobs made his billions and did what he was passionate about.  Gates made his millions and is doing what he is passionate about.  The two men are very different from each other and neither should be held to the others' standard.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
1/27/2014 | 12:30:39 PM
Re: Gates' Legacy
And what exactly is in that for Microsoft? Isn't that just a data traffic issue, as far as profiting from it?

Now, if Microsoft has something like CE used to be, where the refridgerator manufacturer has to license that so they can run their local client application which communicates, then that could be huge for MS. But there is no money in free o/s for MS or anyone else. Only the carriers, people who charge to move the traffic, are guaranteed any income out of this. Or maybe if someone writes some killer middleware app that everyone standardizes on. But that remains to be seen, right now each individual solution is unique to the business that implements it.
gasdetectors
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gasdetectors,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/27/2014 | 10:07:18 AM
Re: Gates' Legacy
I think Bill needs to 'do a jobs' and come back to the businesss with renewed viggour and a clearer strategy for the company. 'the internet of things' is going to be the next frontier and if microsoft dont produce a free os to compete with android theyre going to completely miss out.
clippingpathspecialist
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clippingpathspecialist,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/27/2014 | 5:12:11 AM
Re: I found a best site
Which kind of work your mother do with Microsoft?
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
1/25/2014 | 10:23:29 PM
Re: I can help
As I remember, when Microsoft decided it needed to "compete" against Apple, the pundits of the day opined that this supposed rivalry was only hyped up to prevent the government from instituting an anti-trust suit against Microsoft.
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
1/25/2014 | 10:16:56 PM
Re: Get outta the way Ballmer
I don't believe that Bill Gates was ever really not a "part-timer" and a whole lot more at Microsoft. His presence has always been felt, and will always be, and anyone who wants to be CEO must be willing to live with that. And, is that a bad thing? Just because Apple has to carry on without its founding genius, there is no reason that Microsoft has to.
SteveG950
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SteveG950,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/24/2014 | 6:20:18 PM
Why does everyone think that will help
Microsoft needs some new thinking not more of the old.  Micosoft did not have a record of innovation under Gates, only a  record of corporate growth when the PC was king. The game has changed. Microsoft is no Apple and the problems run deep. Microsoft is going to bury itself with the "One Experience for All Slogan" Their answer to rejection of the concept is to spend more money on advertising. They need a new management style,  someone who thinks out of the Microsoft box and is who not invested in the Microsoft ego.  Bill, do yourself a favor and stay with your  current occupation of decreasing world hunger in the face of exponential population growth.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
1/24/2014 | 10:09:06 AM
It makes sense
I believe it's great if Bill Gates wants to dedicate the rest of his life to philantropy. Yet, I think it would be nice if, even if part-time, he helps MS out. Some people simply belong to certain company so is the case of Bill Gates and MS. 

On the other hand, I would not like to see Stephen Elop as Microsoft's next CEO. A traitor is always a traitor and he betrayed Nokia badly. 

-Susan 
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
1/24/2014 | 9:48:05 AM
Re: Nothing new
Yea it's got to be difficult stepping into a role like that with the pair of them casting such long shadows. That's why it was exciting that the executives from Ford and Ericsson were being considered, since they'd bring their own experience and confidence, but now that's looking less likely. 
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