Microsoft at 40: Read Bill Gates' anniversary email to employees

The world's largest software maker hits a milestone Saturday. Read its co-founder and former CEO's letter to employees asking them to remember the transformative properties of technology.

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Former CEO Bill Gates, shown at bottom left in an iconic company portrait in 1978, has sent a letter to employees marking Microsoft's 40th anniversary. Microsoft

Forty years ago, the world's largest maker of software was nothing more than a startup, founded by two college dropouts named Bill Gates and Paul Allen.

Today, that company, Microsoft, has more than 125,000 employees, a sprawling 8-million-square-foot campus outside Seattle and its principal products running on nearly 90 percent of the world's computers. It's the third-most valuable company in the world, behind only oil giant Exxon Mobil and longtime competitor Apple.

Gates in 1986.
Gates in 1986. Getty Images

On Saturday, Microsoft celebrates its 40th anniversary and Gates -- who served as chief executive officer for 25 years before stepping down in 2000 -- has advice for its employees to utilize in the years ahead: "Make the power of technology accessible to everyone, connect people to each other and make personal computing available everywhere."

In an email to employees Friday, Gates reiterated his commitment to the vision he laid out four decades ago that software could empower the world, and asked Microsoft never to forget what it can do to change lives. "What matters most is what we do next," he wrote.

Gates, who has since pulled away from Microsoft yet remains an adviser to CEO Satya Nadella, focuses now on philanthropic efforts as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. His personal fortune has kept him at the top of the list of the world's wealthiest people 16 out of the last 21 years, but he's pledged to give away 95 percent of it to charity by his death. So far, Gates has poured $28 billion into his foundation.

Here's the full letter to employees, originally tweeted by Amit Roy Choudhary, which Microsoft confirmed:

Tomorrow is a special day: Microsoft's 40th anniversary.

Early on, Paul Allen and I set the goal of a computer on every desk and in every home. It was a bold idea and a lot of people thought we were out of our minds to imagine it was possible. It is amazing to think about how far computing has come since then, and we can all be proud of the role Microsoft played in that revolution.

Today though, I am thinking much more about Microsoft's future than its past. I believe computing will evolve faster in the next 10 years than it ever has before. We already live in a multi-platform world, and computing will become even more pervasive. We are nearing the point where computers and robots will be able to see, move, and interact naturally, unlocking many new applications and empowering people even more.

Under Satya's leadership, Microsoft is better positioned than ever to lead these advances. We have the resources to drive and solve tough problems. We are engaged in every facet of modern computing and have the deepest commitment to research in the industry. In my role as technical advisor to Satya, I get to join product reviews and am impressed by the vision and talent I see. The result is evident in products like Cortana, Skype Translator, and HoloLens -- and those are just a few of the many innovations that are on the way.

In the coming years, Microsoft has the opportunity to reach even more people and organizations around the world. Technology is still out of reach for many people, because it is complex or expensive, or they simply do not have access. So I hope you will think about what you can do to make the power of technology accessible to everyone, to connect people to each other, and make personal computing available everywhere even as the very notion of what a PC delivers makes its way into all devices.

We have accomplished a lot together during our first 40 years and empowered countless businesses and people to realize their full potential. But what matters most now is what we do next. Thank you for helping make Microsoft a fantastic company now and for decades to come.

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