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Ballmer named Microsoft president

Bill Gates calls the promotion "formal recognition" of Steve Ballmer's longtime role at Microsoft.

Microsoft today appointed Steve Ballmer, formerly executive vice president of sales and support and Bill Gates's longtime business partner, as its president.

Bill Gates remains the software giant's chairman and chief executive. In recent Steve Ballmer interviews, he has said that ten years from now he probably will still be involved with Microsoft but choose someone else to be CEO.

"Even though Microsoft is 25 years old, we're a quarter of the way from achieving what's possible," Gates said in a briefing today. "I am looking at getting more time to drive our architectural breakthroughs."

Gates added: "In no way is this stepping back or diminishing my activities." He mentioned that he will devote time to "new things," such as further developing Windows CE and Microsoft's Internet sites.

"We're excited about how much more there is to do," Ballmer said. "I need to help Bill get that time to focus more on the product."

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The fast pace of the technology business even has caught companies such as Microsoft off guard, according to some analysts. One example: the rapid expansion of the Net. In addition, Microsoft has run into criticism for bugs in products already on the market, such as Windows 98.

Gates denied that any external factors, either technological or political, played a role in the timing of today's announcement. He said the ongoing antitrust investigation into Microsoft never occupied a "measurable percentage" of his time.

History of Microsoft presidents
1977-1982 Bill Gates
1982-1983 former Tektronix executive James Towne
1983-1990 former Tandy executive Jon Shirley
1990-1992 former Boeing executive Michael Hallman
1992-1996 Three Microsoft executives, including Ballmer, form an office of the president.
1996-1998 An executive committee of nine Microsoft executives, including Ballmer, replace the office of the president.
1998 Ballmer named president today.

In a memo to employees, Gates said: "The majority of my time will be spent with our products groups, devising the technologies and products of the future."

Gates called the promotion of Ballmer, his friend and business partner for 18 years, a "formal recognition" of the role he has long played at Microsoft. Ballmer, who like Gates is 42, has long been considered the software giant's No. 2 executive. Today's announcement consolidates his power and adds new responsibilities.

The two have distinct personalities, at least outwardly. While Gates is more guarded, Ballmer is gregarious and animated--known to wave his arms in the air when he's trying to drive home a point. Both are highly aggressive executives, however.

Ballmer is Microsoft's first president since 1992. Unlike Ballmer, the previous presidents largely have been outsiders. Michael Hallman, a former Boeing executive who last held the title, is no longer is with the company.

Until now, chief operating officer Bob Herbold and Ballmer both held the title of executive vice president, reporting directly to Gates. Herbold, 55, now will report to Ballmer.

Herbold, who joined Microsoft in November 1994 from Procter and Gamble, was responsible for Microsoft operations that included finance, manufacturing, and distribution. He also has taken a high-profile role in Microsoft's fight against antitrust lawsuits filed by the Justice Department and 20 state attorneys general.

"Bob's done a great job and will continue to be a key part of the team," Gates said.

In related personnel moves, Jeff Raikes, formerly group vice president of sales and marketing, will become group vice president of sales and support. He will also be responsible for Microsoft's new product support services organization, which is being created by the merger of enterprise services and Microsoft Technical Support. Raikes will report to Ballmer.

Jean-Philippe Courtois, formerly general manager of Microsoft France, will become vice president of worldwide customer marketing, reporting to Raikes. Kevin Johnson, formerly general manager of enterprise services, is being promoted to vice president of product support services, also reporting to Raikes.

As a result of the corporate reshaping, Microsoft's chain of command now looks like this: Herbold, chief operating officer; Frank M. (Pete) Higgins, group vice president of interactive media; Paul A. Maritz, group vice president of platforms and applications; and William H. Neukom, senior vice president, law and corporate affairs, will report to Ballmer. These executives previously reported directly to Gates.

Public relations, which formerly reported to Ballmer, will now report to Herbold, while Ballmer's other existing direct reports will continue to answer to him. Nathan Myhrvold, chief technology officer, will continue to report to Gates.