Can there be a Microsoft without Bill Gates?

Broken Exit

The answer is yes, of course. This multi-billion-dollar juggernaut will roll along regardless of who’s chairing the board. The bigger question is would it be better off with a new CEO and a new chairman both learning new, very big jobs, together.

On the plus side, however you feel about Bill Gates, he built a software colossus out of the company he co-founded with Paul Allen 39 years ago. to recap, Bloomberg reported Thursday that the Microsoft board is close to naming Satya Nadella as the next CEO — which would be news. Bigger news was the contention that the board may ask Gates to relinquish his chairmanship.

Image (1) billgates.jpg for post 75207He was the first CEO and has remained chairman of the board after handing that job over to his friend (well then-friend anyway) and colleague Steve Ballmer in January 2000. Even folks who derided early Windows as derivative and buggy, will admit that Gates’ “information at your fingertips” vision resonated and helped drive Windows and Office onto hundreds of millions of PCs and then made Windows Server a power player in server operating systems.

But the visionary had his blind spots. As we wrote a few months ago while Ballmer got most of the blame for Microsoft’s poor stock performance, it was Gates who was in charge when Microsoft “missed” the Internet. And insiders said it was mostly Gates who kept pushing to cram more and more features into Windows Vista which turned up both late and profoundly flawed. The Vista mess contributed to Microsoft’s late entry into mobile.

Now, Microsoft is trying to be many things besides the PC and server OS and apps giant it already is. It’s pushing Bing search (vs. Google); Xbox (vs Apple, Sony et al); Windows Phone (vs. Apple, Samsung and the Android cabal); business applications (vs. SAP, Oracle, Salesforce.com) and Windows Azure (vs. Amazon Web Services, and clouds freom everyone else). You get the picture.

So does a new CEO — presumably Satya Nadella — do better without the company founder hanging over his shoulder — or does he need that corporate memory to help guide him. The other question is whether Gates, who is running a huge philanthropic organization, has the bandwidth to do more than second guess whoever becomes the CEO.

So I’m asking you readers– serious question — Should Gates stay or should Gates go? Please use comments below to weigh in.

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