Ballmer’s move up lets Gates take Strategic view

Microsoft says it is entering a new phase, one that will focus founder Bill Gates' energy on future product development and strategy and put money into improving customer support and feedback. In a memo to Microsoft employees posted on the company Web site, Gates cited several "critical product goals that require breakthrough work." He said Microsoft "must lead" in enabling knowledge management, extend its work to intelligent phones and TVs and integrate new input techniques such as speech, vision and handwriting with an eye toward tablet-size devices. Windows should be beefed up in the areas of ease of use, scalability and reliability and ensuring a unified, simplified and manageable architecture.

Microsoft says it is entering a new phase, one that will focus founder Bill Gates’ energy on future product development and strategy while also funneling significant dollars into improving customer support and feedback mechanisms.

In a memo to Microsoft employees posted on the company Web site, Gates cited several “critical product goals that require breakthrough work.”

He said Microsoft “must lead” in enabling knowledge management, extend its work to intelligent phones and TVs and integrate new input techniques such as speech, vision and handwriting with an eye toward tablet-size devices. On the Windows front, those goals included beefing up Windows in the areas of ease of use, greater scalability and reliability and ensuring a unified, simplified and manageable architecture.

To free up Gates, who has led a three-person office of the president since 1992, Steve Ballmer, the company’s top sales executive and longtime Gates partner, was promoted to president this week. Gates remains chairman and CEO.

The move was designed to “broaden the leadership” of the company and enable Ballmer to focus on “delighting” customers.

Ballmer will spend less time on sales calls to large user companies while he focuses more on daily operations at Microsoft, he said.

Going forward, chief information officers at user companies will likely hear instead from Jeff Raikes, who replaced Ballmer as head of sales and support. Raikes has worked in various product and sales groups at Microsoft since 1981.

Gates said his decision to step back from day-to-day business management at this point in Microsoft’s 23-year history wasn’t related to ongoing struggles with the U.S. Department of Justice. “That was never a measurable percentage” of his time, he said.

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