Steven Ballmer has a new title today at Microsoft: the executive vice president of sales and support, long recognized as the right-hand man of chief Bill Gates, is now president of the company.
Gates, chairman and chief executive officer of the software giant, called the promotion part of his plan to "broaden Microsoft's leadership and position the company to take advantage of new growth opportunities," according to a statement released by Microsoft.
Giving Ballmer more control of Microsoft's day-to-day business will enable Gates to spend more time working with product groups, Gates said during a press conference today.
"I really want to get in there and work with the developers," Gates said, noting that he will take a more hands-on role in developing technologies and products.
Ballmer will in turn take on a more visible public role.
"It gives me an incentive to beat the drum louder" in promoting Microsoft, Ballmer said, adding that he will focus more on "customer satisfaction and customer delight."
Gates denied that today's news has anything to do with the increased time he has had to spend on legislative and legal issues and with a desire to turn more of those duties over to Ballmer. He has never spent an appreciable amount of time on those matters, Gates said.
The announcement comes at a time when Microsoft's push into "new growth opportunities" is attracting scrutiny from the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, which is conducting a second hearing Thursday to look at whether or not Microsoft is using its dominant position in the operating system market to make anticompetitive inroads into other markets, including the Internet. The U.S. Department of Justice and 20 state attorneys general also have filed a federal lawsuit alleging Microsoft is violating antitrust laws.
Gates has increasingly taken a more public role in attacking the government for pursuing Microsoft.
Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080 or at http://www.microsoft.com/.