Microsoft's Gates may take on new role in leadership shakeup

For the first time since its founding, Microsoft may soon have neither Bill Gates nor Steve Ballmer in a top role. But at least in the case of Gates, the change could mean one of the company’s long-time leaders will be more involved in its operations.

The software giant is expected to soon name a new CEO to replace Ballmer. But the change at the top of the company may be more extensive than originally thought. According to published reports, Gates may also step down from his role as the company’s chairman.

Instead of riding off into the sunset, Gates is expected to become more involved in the company, not only staying on as a director but taking on a much more active role in product development. According to Bloomberg, Gates, who has been devoting the vast majority of his time in recent years to his charitable foundation, is considering working at Microsoft at least one day a week.

Gates will be working under the lead of a new CEO, although just which one is not yet clear. Microsoft has narrowed its list of candidates to replace Ballmer to two possibilities, according to published reports. Depending on which report you believe, either Satya Nadella, the company’s head of enterprise and cloud computing, or Sundar Pichai, who heads up apps and Chrome at Google, is the front runner to take over as CEO.

The two choices highlight the crossroads at which Microsoft finds itself. Nadella is a long-time Microsoft insider who would represent continuity and likely would attempt to continue the company’s current operations, according to reports. Pichai, as an outsider, would be expected to shake things up at the company.

Ballmer announced in August that he would retire from the company within the next year, setting off a search for his replacement.

While Microsoft has grown its revenue and profits significantly since Ballmer became CEO in 2000, it has also missed out on huge new markets. Products running its software have a tiny share of the fast-growing smartphone and tablet market, for example. And despite years of effort and huge investments, the company has struggled to compete in search and other Web services.

Photo of Bill Gates by Jim Watson/AFP/GettyImages.

Troy Wolverton Troy Wolverton (271 Posts)

Troy writes the Tech Files column as the Personal Technology Columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. He also covers the digital media, mobile and video game industries and writes occasionally about Apple, chips, social networking and other aspects of technology. Previously, Troy covered Apple and the consumer electronics industry. Prior to joining the Mercury News, Troy reported on technology, business and financial issues for TheStreet.com and CNET News.com.