How many people does it take to fill Bill Gates' shoes?

In a new video interview posted to Microsoft's Channel 9 Web site on June 23, Chairman Bill Gates adds a third group of folks to the list of those who will be filling his shoes after he leaves Microsoft as a full-time employee this month. Gates told Channel 9's Charles Torres that Microsoft's group of Technical Fellows also will be helping to fill the technology-leadership void that his departure will create.

When Microsoft hired Ray Ozzie in 2005, Ozzie was one of three Chief Technology Officers at Microsoft. In 2006, Microsoft's then-Chief-Software-Architect (CSA) -- Bill Gates -- passed the CSA torch to Ozzie.

But Ozzie is not Gates' sole replacement. Gates' CSA role is split officially between Ozzie and Craig Mundie, Chief Research and Strategy Officer.

In a new video interview posted to Microsoft's Channel 9 Web site on June 23, Gates adds a third group of folks to the list of those who will be filling his shoes after he leaves Microsoft as a full-time employee this month. Gates told Channel 9's Charles Torre that Microsoft's group of Technical Fellows also will be helping to fill the technology-leadership void that his departure will create.

So it seemingly takes 24 people -- Ozzie, Mundie and the 22 Microsoft Technical Fellows -- to fill Gates' tech shoes.

Gates told Torre that Microsoft's community of Technical Fellows are the "real experts." He said his visibiity has resulted in the fellows' being overshadowed. His departure will create a new "opportunity for people to see how important their work is," Gates said.

It would be interesting to hear more publicly from the typically silent group of Tech Fellows. (There are a few who've been more outspoken than others, including Windows guru Mark Russinovich and the father of C#, Anders Hejlsberg;

Here are a few of the folks I'd love to get to interview on that list. Among them:

Dave Cutler: The guy who is considered the father of VMS, Windows NT and 64-bit operating systems at Microsoft. He allegedly is part of the All-Star Team working on Microsoft's Live Mesh platform, formerly known as the Windows Live Core effort.

David DeWitt: The most recently minted Tech Fellow, working in Microsoft's Data and Storage Platform Division. DeWitt’s new role is creating and leading the Microsoft Jim Gray Systems Lab

Gary Flake: The former head of Yahoo Research Labs who is the founder and director of Live Labs, a combo of Microsoft's research and Windows Live organizations. Flake is responsible for "setting the technology vision and future direction of the MSN portal, web search, desktop search, and commercial search efforts," according to the Microsoft Web site.

John Shewchuk: According to Microsoft's Web site, Shewchuck "leads the Project Zurich architecture and strategy teams, which are focused on extending Microsoft’s .NET application development technologies to the Internet 'cloud.'" (More on Microsoft Zurich here.)

Burton Smith: Smith is charged with expanding the company’s efforts in parallel and high-performance computing

Mike Toutonghi: Toutonghi currently leads the Advertising Platform Architecture Team, "focusing on architectural design and integration of Microsoft’s platform assets, technologies and efforts." He is a long-time, on-again/off-again Softie, who first joined the company in 1992 to work on the Windows 95 kernel.

Do you think these 24 folks can fill Gates' shoes? Or do you believe (hope and/or pray)  Ozzie will now emerge from the shadows where he's been hiding for the past three years to become the public technology face of Microsoft?

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