As Bill Gates prepares to walk away from Microsoft, both the man and the company he founded will face challenges getting along without each other, according to the new issue of Newsweek magazine.
Gates, who is stepping down from his full-time role at Microsoft this week to focus on his $37 billion charitable foundation, is the subject of an article that profiles Microsoft's successes and failures during his tenure, as well as the difficult transition the company and its founder will likely face. (CNET News.com plans to publish its own retrospective on Gates' departure, but in the meantime, you might want to refresh yourself with some stories from when the transition was announced.)
While the Newsweek story mentions Microsoft's challenges in antitrust probes, Windows Vista versus Windows XP, and the Internet search arena, the story also offers intimate perspectives from the people who know him the best, as well as Gates himself.
"He's not just Bill Gates, he's the Bill Gates," Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO and Gates' right-hand man for decades:
He founded the company, he's accumulated this wealth, he's got this foundation, he's got this fame. That's irreplaceable. Also, Bill grew up with every one of the technologies in this company. He's got more capacity to remember things than anybody I've ever known. It's unlikely we'll have anybody again who has that breadth.
Gates was also responsible for stoking the fires of urgency at the software giant, said Ray Ozzie, who took over Gates' job as chief software architect:
A lot of the company's strength is that Bill created a culture of crisis--if there weren't a Google, we'd have to make one. This is a period of unprecedented strength for the company. If there had to be a time when Bill transitioned out, we couldn't have set it up better than it is right now.
Paul Allen, who co-founded the company with Gates, remarked from the perspective of his own departure from the company in 1983:
You don't always realize how dramatic that transition is going to be when people aren't depending on your decisions day by day.
So how about Bill? Is he going to miss being in the trenches, slugging it out with Apple, Google, and Mozilla? It doesn't sound like it from what he told the magazine:
This whole thing about which operating system somebody uses is a pretty silly thing versus issues involving starvation or death.