Bill Gates to change focus from Microsoft to philanthropy

Bill Gates, founder and Chairman of Microsoft, relinquished his title of Chief Software Architect to recent recruit Ray Ozzie yesterday. Gates plans to leave his day-to-day role at Microsoft in July 2008.

The 50-year-old plans to spend more time on his global health and education work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which, with assets of more than $29 billion, is the world's largest philanthropic organisation.

Microsoft announced a two-year transition process yesterday. From July 2008, Gates will continue to serve as the company’s Chairman and as an advisor on key development projects.

The company announced that Ray Ozzie, the creator of IBM's Lotus Notes, who joined Microsoft last year as Chief Technical Officer, will immediately assume the title of Chief Software Architect. The company said Ozzie will begin working side by side with Gates on all technical architecture and product oversight responsibilities, to ensure a smooth transition.

Chief Technical Officer Craig Mundie will immediately take the new title of Chief Research and Strategy officer and will work closely with Gates to assume his responsibility for the company’s research and incubation efforts. Mundie also will partner with general counsel Brad Smith to guide Microsoft’s intellectual property and technology policy efforts.

"This was a hard decision for me," said Gates. "I’m very lucky to have two passions that I feel are so important and so challenging. As I prepare for this change, I firmly believe the road ahead for Microsoft is as bright as ever."

He told journalists that he always sees himself as being the largest shareholder in Microsoft.

Gates started Microsoft in 1975 with childhood friend Paul Allen. He was the company’s chairman and CEO until 2000, when Steve Ballmer, a former college classmate of Gates, took over as CEO. Gates and his wife formed the Foundation in the same year.