In choosing to make the transition announcement now, Microsoft hopes to bring new faces to the fore and reassert a sense of optimism about the company's future. "I believe we have an amazing opportunity before us," Ballmer said, suggesting Microsoft could add a billion customers over the next 10 years.
Microsoft is jockeying for position as software changes from being a PC- and server-based resource to a Web-based service. The company has fallen behind leading Web technologies, such as Ajax and Ruby on Rails, which produce quick applications with an emphasis on Web interactions. That explains why so many are fast to declare Gates' planned departure as the end of an era.
Gates last week acknowledged he's not quite sure how the adjustment will go. "I don't know what it's going to feel like not to come in here every day and work 10 hours," he said. Neither do we.
-- With Charles Babcock, J. Nicholas Hoover, and Aaron Ricadela
Mundie Will Stick To Gates' Culture
and Ozzie Has A History Of Being Right