Despite the curious timing of Bill Gates' resignation as CEO last week, one local channel partner has welcomed the move while one analyst indicated it was a masterstroke.
Gates resigned as CEO last Thursday night AEST to take a new role as chief software architect at Microsoft. He will continue as chairman of the company and president Steve Ballmer will take over as CEO.
The news comes at a time when the US Department of Justice is reportedly close to deciding it will break up the company.
IDC's general manager of research, Graham Penn, commented that Gates may be positioning himself for a role as chairman with any and all of the restructured companies.
Brian Walshe, marketing director of Microsoft channel partner Praxa, said the move will have a significant impact on Microsoft's future.
With snow-balling technical change occurring across the industry, Walshe said Praxa views the strategy as a positive one as Microsoft's software development will demand constant attention.
`What we've got here is a continuation of the strategy they've had for a few years,' he commented.
Walshe quipped that Gates still clearly enjoys his work despite the fact he has enough money to never work another day of his life.
`If it was me, I'd be spending a lot of time on the golf course,' he mused.
With no official day-to-day role with any of Microsoft's divisions, Gates would indeed be able to take up the position of chairman at all of the companies - unless the DoJ restricts him from doing this as part of the settlement, Penn said.
However, Penn said Gates' resignation was also `simply the acceleration of what Microsoft had already been planning' after the promotion of Steve Ballmer to president of the company in July 1998. In leaked e-mails obtained by ARN from Gates and Ballmer to Microsoft staff in the US, Gates said he and Ballmer planned to reinvent the company so as to `empower people through great software'.
In reply, Ballmer said Gates would continue to serve as chairman of Microsoft, and devote `100 per cent of his time and energy' to the com-pany's Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS) (see an edited ver-sion of Ballmer and Gates' e-mails on page 4).
Meanwhile, Microsoft's Australian managing director, Paul Houghton, was not surprised by the news, and said it would not affect local operations other than on a worldwide basis.
`It's a great opportunity for Bill to get close to the technology and for Steve to step up and have the leadership role in the company,' he said.
`Bill has been talking to the Board for a little over two years in terms of getting closer to the technology, so he's had the desire to move in that direction and it was just a matter of the right time to be about to do that.'Houghton dismissed suggestions the change was in preparation for the speculated split of Microsoft by the DoJ, but did admit the company was going through changes.