Bill Gates To Leave Day-To-Day Microsoft Role

Gates, arguably one of most recognizable executives in the world -- and not just IT -- will stay on at Microsoft until July 2008, but will immediately cede his title of chief software architect to CTO Ray Ozzie, who will begin to take responsibility for architectural development at the firm.

After July 2008, Gates will remain on as Microsoft's chairman and take an advisory role in development.

In a press conference today, Gates described the shift as "not a retirement," but a reordering of my priorities.

"This was a hard decision for me to make," Gates said. "Even as I prepare to shift my focus, I know Microsoft is well-positioned for success in the year's ahead."

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Gates will devote his time and energies post-Microsoft to the charitable work done by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Microsoft president and CEO Steve Ballmer called Gates' one of the "greatest philanthropists of all time" and described the transition with emotion during the press conference. But Ballmer also assured a smooth transition under a strong crew of executives, including Ozzie, and that the company remains committed to innovation.

In addition to Gates' shift, CTO Craig Mundie will immediately take the new title of chief research and strategy officer. He'l coordinate with Gates in the next two years on R&D.

Gates expressed confidence in the executives and engineers running Microsoft.

"I think we can make this transition without missing a beat," he said.