One more time: Bill Gates is not coming back to run Microsoft

One more time: Bill Gates is not coming back to run Microsoft

Summary: Repeat after me: Bill Gates is not going to return to running Microsoft.

TOPICS: Microsoft

Once more. With feeling. Everyone repeat after me: Bill Gates is not going to sweep in like a white knight and take over as Microsoft's CEO.


There's an unsourced report from the Australian International Business Times claiming this might happen, which is being picked up by various sites and blogs. Maybe... just maybe... what if...

I don't have Gates' ear. I can't get an interview with CEO Ballmer and haven't been able for nearly two decades. (No idea why. I keep asking -- sometimes even nicely.)

But even without this level of access, I can say Gates is not coming back. He is not going to take back the CEO reins he gave to Ballmer in 2000. He is not going to become Chief Technology Officer. He's just not. He's said it before, and maybe he will have to say it again. Gates is done running Microsoft. Period.

Gates is still Microsoft's Chairman. He seems to be having a blast running the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, saving the world, one dead mosquito at a time. If you saw Gates' recent appearance at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit, you couldn't help but feel Gates is all about the Foundation. Sure, he needs to make sure Microsoft doesn't completely go off the rails so he can continue funding his health and anti-poverty projects. But he doesn't have to be back in the building with day-to-day responsibilities to do that.

Yes, I know there are many who equate the heady years of Microsoft growth with Gates. And I know there are many inside and outside the company -- including some current and many former employees, along with quite a few Wall Street analysts -- who think a Gate-full Microsoft would trump a Ballmer-led one. I think many of those people are looking at Microsoft history with Fortaleza (instead of Google) glasses

Gates founded Microsoft. But Microsoft is a very different company than when Gates retired from his day-to-day duties there in 2008. When Ballmer eventually goes, it's time for new management, not a return to the past.

Topic: Microsoft


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Yep

    It is a mistake to go back instead of moving forward.
    Jeff Kibuule
    • Maybe

      Not necessarily, just look at Apple when Jobs came back.
      However, in this case I have to agree, I think it's safe to say that Gates isn't coming back.
      • Um.....

        Steve Jobs got extremely lucky due to the success of TWO products.

        1) iPod
        2) iPhone (which wouldn't have even been possible if the iPod hadn't been a gigantic success).

        And the iPod wouldn't even have been a big success if other companies could have copied its click-wheel. Because no company could do that, the 'different' control mechanism was an Apple-only thing and made other players feel old because you had to press buttons and stuff.

        So, in short, Apple's success upon Jobs's return owes everything to that damn click-wheel. I kid you not.
        • Apple was a long way off from the iPod

          ....when Jobs came back.

          Apple got a major cash infusion from Microsoft at the time. Microsoft doesn't need cash. And there's nobody that is in a position for them to remake the company anyway. Microsoft isn't dying anytime soon. If you believe that it is, then you must believe that 20XX is the Year of Linux too.
          • And...

            Until the iPod came out, Apple was no more loved or sold any better than people expected. Answer me this: If the iPod never came out, do you honestly think we'd even be talking about Apple nowadays? NOPE.
          • Stupid comment and line of thought!

            ....and if MS never marketed DOS people would never be talking about them, but they did and so did Apple. I often find it is people who can't who play what if about people who did.
          • Actually Scott,

            had the iPod not come along when it did, Apple would have been doing just fine as a niche computer manufacturer. iMac was the machine that saved the company, not iPod.

            If anything, it would have forced Apple to innovate on their Mac lines much faster than they did.
          • Your Joking right?

            Iphone and Ipod save Apple there is no question about that issue.
            Imac seriously?
          • Sorry but you are wrong..

            And here is why, the "Bondi Blue" iMacs with the Jeff Goldblum ads made PCs "not scary" to a LOT of people that frankly wouldn't have bought a computer otherwise.

            Believe me I know as I've dealt with PC sale and support since the days of Win 3.x and you have to remember that Windows was on Win9X, aka the "sneeze and it crashes" phase and there was a LOT of people that honestly didn't feel comfortable having a computer because of that and the iMac made the PC a "friendly" device. This coupled with Jobs bringing the Apple Stores where they could talk to a "genius" who would answer all their questions and fix any mistakes made the computer something Joe and Jane could use, not just their geeky uncle.

            And this is coming from somebody whose only Apple product is a G3 tower I picked up a couple of years ago for the art deco case (plan on building a ULV Athlon in it when i get time) but I have to give credit where credit is due and it was the iMac that started Apple on the road to recovery, during that period I saw more candy colored iMacs than I care to count and they were ALL brand new customers who quickly became Apple loyalists.
            PC builder
          • "Bill Gates is not coming back to run Microsoft"

            Aww mommy why not?
        • Re: Steve Jobs got extremely lucky due to the success of TWO products.

          And the original Imac.

          Steve Jobs got extremely due to the success of THREE products: the Imac, the Ipod, and the Iphone. And the Ipad.

          Among Steve Jobs' lucky successes...
          • Nope.

            The iMac was not a big hit. It sold, but it sold to Apple buyers who always bought Apple stuff. Not a big deal. The iPod is what allowed Apple to attract brand new customers, willing to spend a premium price for a marked-up piece of hardware.

            That's why Apple eventually dropped 'Computer' from its name - it no longer wanted to be associated with computers. Generic consumer technology is what turned it around, and that's all it has wanted to focus on since.

            The iPod saved Apple, plain and simple.
          • Re: The iMac was not a big hit

            It was selling 2 million a year, which in the late 1990s was a big deal. It single-handedly broke USB out of the chicken-and-egg conundrum it was trapped in--PC vendors wouldn't make machines with USB because there were no devices to plug into them, while peripheral makers wouldn't make USB devices because no PCs supported them.

            The IMac changed all that. Some tried to give credit to Windows 98, but it was easy to tell the IMac was the real driver. Why? Because the sudden flood of USB devices came in translucent blue and other bright colours, to look good next to an IMac, not a dull beige Windows PC.
          • Seriously?

            How can any device which is selling 0.01 % of the entire desktop market be considered relevant, much less influential? Two million units per year is like 1% of the amount Windows desktops were selling every month. The vast majority of desktop users on the planet didn't even notice the original iMac existed.

            Looked good? It looked like a plastic toy computer. If you asked 95% of the population what the original iMac looked like, they wouldn't be able to tell you, despite the bright colors. Even after the iMac came out, Apple only held maybe 5% of the desktop market share back then. Their computers, especially the iMac, were irrelevant to the vast majority of people on Earth.

            It also did not take USB mainstream because the iMac was NEVER mainstream. Nobody cared what was on the iMac because only a microscopic fraction of people ever bought one. USB did not take off like a rocket until Windows 98 added support for USB. Even when Windows 98 added support, there were very few actual USB devices. The vast majority of USB devices came out after Windows 98.

            The iPod, and later the iPhone were paradigm shifts. The original iMac was irrelevant.
          • The original iMac

            really did drive USB adoption. In fact, many of the first USB devices were Mac only because PC support was spotty at best.

            It was about the time that Windows 98 Second Edition came out (a year after the original iMac) that PC USB devices began to become popular, not because of price but because of the OS the greater majority of people used wasn't finicky about USB devices and bus errors. Even then, it took Windows XP to make USB the preferred connection over the traditional parallel port for devices like printers, because USB made a bigger performance hit on 9x and ME than it did for XP, and 2k just wasn't popular for home usage.
          • Lets be Honest

            I'm not a big fan of Apple, but, yes, there were raves about the look of the iMac, which was quite refreshing compared to the ugly biege boxes + bulky monitor that PCs were back then. The look contributed to widening their market (people who hadn't previously used Macs adopted it). And it set Apple down the road of placing as much (or likely, more) emphasis on design and physical ergonomics as they do on utility. That emphasis led to the dominance of the ipod (despite the fact that itunes sucks eggs), which in turn paved the way for the ipad. Not to mention a cultish following and frivolous lawsuits against Samsung.
          • Essentially, Jobs legacy

            is not one of developing great hardware, but of finding a talented designer, and adopting good technology designed by others and dumbing it down. And people liked that, even if it meant giving up some control over how they can use the Apple products they bought to a megalomaniac.
          • Very well stated sir. (NT)

          • Re: 0.01 % of the entire desktop market

            Just off by a couple of orders of magnitude, that's all.
          • Seriously

            The 90's was all windows!