Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
News
1/22/2014
03:00 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

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.

Incidents of mobile malware are way up, researchers say, and 78% of respondents worry about lost or stolen devices. But while many teams are taking mobile security more seriously, 42% still skip scanning completely, and just 39% have MDM systems in place. Find out more in the State Of Mobile Security report (free registration required).

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
Shane M. O'Neill
100%
0%
Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
1/22/2014 | 4:00:22 PM
Get outta the way Ballmer
I like how Gates says he'll "help out part-time" as if he's working at a diner. Gates checked out of technology awhile ago; he's all about philanthropy now. As for the possibility of Ballmer leaving the board when new the CEO is chosen. Great idea. In fact, that will probably need to be a pre-requisite for the new CEO to say yes. Would you want Ballmer on your board?
Thomas Claburn
100%
0%
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
1/22/2014 | 4:38:41 PM
Re: Get outta the way Ballmer
I imagine the new CEO would prefer not to operate in the shadow of Ballmer (or Gates). The less past executives are involved the better.
anon3887640480
50%
50%
anon3887640480,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/22/2014 | 5:32:43 PM
Re: Get outta the way Ballmer
I have to disagree. Windows has a huge market share, we owe this to the previous CEOs. And the new Windows 8.x strategy that unifies the Desktop part with the touch part is a winner too, because we finally have productive tablets and hybrids.

 
Gary_EL
50%
50%
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.
dboz555
100%
0%
dboz555,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/22/2014 | 5:12:45 PM
I can help
The problem Microsoft is having is the same most companies are having. The business world has done a great job of putting a computer on every desk, but still does not embrace technology to its full potential. This includes technology companies. The business world still does not fully understand how to use technology to make a company better. Sure people see a need and in some cases find a solution, but it stops there.

 

The people of Bill Gates generation are retiring and the people who are coming behind them understand the technology enough on how to use it, but still do not know how to apply it in a business sense. The innovation behind most of the technology is retiring and you are seeing les and les Bill Gates, and more Steve Ballmer's. Flailing in the Wind with little to no innovation. Not understanding of the customer base, leading to not understanding the product.

 

Over the last decade Microsoft themselves created one of their biggest problems; which is they decided to compete with MAC, why I will never figure out. MAC is not competition; they no longer make Network products, software companies still rarely develop software for a MAC, security is not there, and almost every business in the world is Microsoft compatible not MAC compatible. Most companies who are MAC spend a lot of time and money to interface with people outside of their company that are Microsoft. Microsoft should have stayed the course. By the way MAC lost the graphics end of the computer business in 1996 that is why they started using PC graphics by the following year.   
Gary_EL
50%
50%
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.
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%
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.
RobPreston
50%
50%
RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
1/23/2014 | 9:34:51 AM
Gates' Legacy
It's a testament to Gates' extraordinary philanthropic work that many of us no longer think of him mainly in Microsoft terms but more so in the context of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Whoopty
50%
50%
Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
1/23/2014 | 10:01:22 AM
Re: Gates' Legacy
Especially considering that he's still being talked about as a potential CEO for the company. It would probably boost confidence a lot in the company if he made a return - as unlikely as that seems. 
TomFLaSusa
50%
50%
TomFLaSusa,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/23/2014 | 12:09:48 PM
Re: Gates' Legacy
Agree with "anon3887640480," -- Most of the people I talk with regarding Gates do acknowledge his philanthropic work, but connect him to MS first before they do.
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
1/23/2014 | 12:43:01 PM
Re: Gates' Legacy
I agree, Rob. In the late 90s, I remember watching the scene in the South Park movie in which Bill Gates is graphically shot in the head after he unsuccessfully defends Windows 98 to an Army general. At the time, the crowd cheered with approval. While South Park is irreverent as ever, I doubt that such a gag would play so well now. Some people still view Gates as competitive and cutthroat, but his philanthropic work has really cultivated a new, post-Microsoft personna. I won't be surprised if his post-Microsoft days ultimately define his legacy as much as his CEO ones.
TerryB
50%
50%
TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
1/23/2014 | 12:55:10 PM
Re: Gates' Legacy
I take it you missed the South Park episode this year about the epic battle for market share of gaming between PS 4 and XBox One in Black Friday sales. I don't want to spoil it for people who may not have seen it but suffice it to say Bill makes another appearance.

I guess that says something (gaming, not computers) about where MS is today in much of mainstream.
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
1/23/2014 | 1:03:11 PM
Re: Gates' Legacy
Ha! You know, I had it playing in the background a while back while I was working on something, and I thought I'd caught the gist of the episode, but evidently not. I completely missed that Bill made an appearance. I still think his image transformation is notable, even if Trey Parker and Matt Stone aren't impressed. ;)

Interesting note about MS being of more pop culture importance in gaming than in PCs.
gasdetectors
50%
50%
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.
TerryB
50%
50%
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.
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%
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.
jries921
50%
50%
jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
1/23/2014 | 12:29:56 PM
Nothing new
Mr/ Gates has been a part timer at MS for the past several years; he's merely indicating that this isn't going to change.  But the notion that either Gates or Ballmer should resign from the board because their presence indicates that the new CEO won't have a free hand is ridiculous.  The job of a corporate board is to make policy, not to be a rubber stamp for the CEO.  Hence, the presence of two former CEOs on the board should be a relief to a good CEO and a check on a bad one (to misquote Benjamin Franklin).  I am under the impression that there are a lot more than 2 directors.

 

 
RobPreston
50%
50%
RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
1/23/2014 | 1:25:09 PM
Re: Nothing new
I'm of a mixed mind on this point--the value of having both Gates and Ballmer continuing on the Microsoft board.  They bring decades of rich experience and deep knowledge but also decades of legacy thinking. The new CEO won't need and should never get a rubber-stamp board, but he/she will need a wide berth to try some substantially new things. I think Ballmer, and Gates in particular, deserve the benefit of the doubt there. They won't be defenders of the status quo. 
Whoopty
50%
50%
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. 
cbabcock
50%
50%
cbabcock,
User Rank: Strategist
1/23/2014 | 5:56:21 PM
How Microsoft got to where it is today
The fact is, it was Ballmer and Gates together who built Microsoft as a company. Somehow, they were better together than either one alone. (Someone explain that to me someday.) I had a sinking feeling about Microsoft's future as Ballmer took sole control. He has too much of a driven, competitive and short term perspective to get all the long term decisions right. At the same time I have little doubt it was Ballmere who helped convert Gate's technical insights and capabilties into a dominant business. The genius of the early Microsoft was to realize a new age was dawning and to harness the energies of thousands of independnent software developers to the Windows platform. This was more an expression of Bill Gates' programmer personality than Ballmer's business sense. Neither IBM, Digital Equipment or Sun Microsystems reached out beyond themselves in the same way in their early days. Microsoft launched the modern era of consumer computing... and is now struggling to keep up with it.  
Susan Fourtané
50%
50%
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 
SteveG950
50%
50%
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.
clippingpathspecialist
50%
50%
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?
The Business of Going Digital
The Business of Going Digital
Digital business isn't about changing code; it's about changing what legacy sales, distribution, customer service, and product groups do in the new digital age. It's about bringing big data analytics, mobile, social, marketing automation, cloud computing, and the app economy together to launch new products and services. We're seeing new titles in this digital revolution, new responsibilities, new business models, and major shifts in technology spending.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest - August 27, 2014
Who wins in cloud price wars? Short answer: not IT. Enterprises don't want bare-bones IaaS. Providers must focus on support, not undercutting rivals.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Howard Marks talks about steps to take in choosing the right cloud storage solutions for your IT problems
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.