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Bill Gates to Relinquish Duties at Microsoft in 2008

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) Chairman Bill Gates said Thursday he will transition from day-to-day responsibilities at the company to concentrate on the charitable work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Gates will continue as the company's chairman after transferring his duties over a two-year period.

"This was a hard decision for me," said Gates, who founded the world's largest software company with childhood friend Paul Allen. "I'm very lucky to have two passions that I feel are so important and so challenging. As I prepare for this change, I firmly believe the road ahead for Microsoft is as bright as ever."

Microsoft's Chief Technical Officer Ray Ozzie will immediately assume Gate's title as chief software architect and begin working with Gates on overseeing all software technical design.

Chief Technical Officer Craig Mundie will immediately take the new title of chief research and strategy officer and will work with Gates in those areas. Mundie also will partner with general counsel Brad Smith to guide Microsoft's intellectual property and technology policy efforts.

In January 2000, Gates assumed the role of chief software architect and Steve Ballmer took over the role of chief executive officer. Ballmer remains responsible for all day-to-day operations and company's business strategy.

"Bill and I are confident we've got a great team that can step up to fill his shoes and drive Microsoft innovation forward without missing a beat," Ballmer said.

Gates, 50, and Allen started Microsoft in 1975. He took Microsoft public in 1986 and was the company's chairman and CEO until 2000, the year he and his wife formed the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, whose assets now total $29.1 billion.

For the past six years Gates has focused on Microsoft's software development as the company's chairman and chief software architect.

Ozzie, 50, worked on the first electronic spreadsheet, VisiCalc, in the early 1980s. In 1983, he joined Lotus Development Corp. — Microsoft's archrival at the time — to develop Lotus Symphony, a business software suite.

He later founded Groove Networks, where he developed Groove Virtual Office. Microsoft acquired Groove Networks in April 2005 and named Ozzie chief technical officer.

Mundie, 56, joined Microsoft in 1992 to create and run its Consumer Platforms Division, which was responsible for non-personal computer software. Mundie also started Microsoft's digital TV efforts. His current responsibilities include global technology policy and a variety of technical and business incubation efforts.

Ozzie and Mundie will continue to report to Gates. At an unspecified time during the two-year transition period, they will shift to reporting to Ballmer.

The news was announced after financial markets closed. Earlier, shares in Microsoft rose 19 cents, or 0.87 percent, to close Thursday at $22.07 on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Shares lost 10 cents in after-hours trading.

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