Why Bill Gates isn't coming back to run Microsoft

Repeat after me: Bill Gates is not going to return to running Microsoft.

Mary Jo Foley
Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network.
Mary Jo Foley
2 min read
Bill Gates
Bill Gates is done running Microsoft. Period. Stefan Postles/Getty Images

Once more. With feeling. Everyone repeat after me: Bill Gates is not going to sweep in like a white knight and take over as Microsoft's CEO.

There's an unsourced report from the Australian International Business Times claiming this might happen, which is being picked up by various sites and blogs. Maybe... just maybe... what if...

I don't have Gates' ear. I can't get an interview with CEO Steve Ballmer and haven't been able for nearly two decades. (No idea why. I keep asking -- sometimes even nicely.)

But even without this level of access, I can say Gates is not coming back. He is not going to take back the CEO reins he gave to Ballmer in 2000. He is not going to become Chief Technology Officer. He's just not. He's said it before, and maybe he will have to say it again. Gates is done running Microsoft. Period.

Gates is still Microsoft's Chairman. He seems to be having a blast running the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, saving the world, one dead mosquito at a time. If you saw Gates' recent appearance at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit, you couldn't help but feel Gates is all about the Foundation. Sure, he needs to make sure Microsoft doesn't completely go off the rails so he can continue funding his health and anti-poverty projects. But he doesn't have to be back in the building with day-to-day responsibilities to do that.

Yes, I know there are many who equate the heady years of Microsoft growth with Gates. And I know there are many inside and outside the company -- including some current and many former employees, along with quite a few Wall Street analysts -- who think a Gate-full Microsoft would trump a Ballmer-led one. I think many of those people are looking at Microsoft history with Fortaleza (instead of Google) glasses

Gates founded Microsoft. But Microsoft is a very different company than when Gates retired from his day-to-day duties there in 2008. When Ballmer eventually goes, it's time for new management, not a return to the past.

This story originally appeared as "One more time: Bill Gates is not coming back to run Microsoft" on ZDNet.