SENSING the start of a personal computer revolution, Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard University in 1975 to start Micro-Soft and pursue a vision of a computer on every desk and in every home.
Three decades later, Gates has stepped down from what is now the world’s largest software company — which he renamed Microsoft — to work full-time at the charitable organisation — the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — built by his vast fortune.
Gates leave as one of the world’s richest men with an estimated $58 billion (€36.8bn) fortune.
Business partner Paul Allen was among those “toasting” his childhood friend at a gala dinner affair last night.
After decades devoted to Microsoft, Gates turns his attention full time to the philanthropic Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation he established with his wife.
Although he will become a full-time philanthropist, Mr Gates will remain on Microsoft’s board in a non-executive role, and as the company’s largest shareholder.
Gates leaves Microsoft to wrestle with a fast-changing computer era and growing challenges from internet juggernaut Google and longtime rival Apple, which makes Macintosh computers.
Three people will essentially fill the void Gates leaves behind at Microsoft.
Gates’s job as chief software architect is being handled by Ray Ozzie.
Craig Mundie inherited Gates’s chief research and strategy officer duties, while former Harvard University classmate Steve Ballmer is chief executive at the software colossus based in Redmond, Washington.
Gates’s business acumen helped Microsoft grow from an 11-man operation based in New Mexico to a multi-billion dollar corporation that employs more than 60,000 people across 100 countries.
Rivalry between Microsoft and Apple has hotted up in recent years.
Microsoft began selling Zune brand MP3 players in September of 2006 to compete with Apple’s market-dominating iPods but the devices haven’t been a hit with customers.
Microsoft failed in a recent bid to buy Yahoo for nearly $50bn in order to combine online resources to better battle Google in the booming internet search and advertising.
Microsoft’s entertainment unit, which sells Xbox videogame consoles and gaming software, has yet to make a profit.
Now that Gates is stepping away from his daily duties, he’s going to dive deeper into the work of his $38bn charitable foundation, established a decade ago.
As Patty Stonesifer, chief executive of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, sees it, Gates won’t focus on managing the organisation, hiring hundreds of new employees or overseeing the construction of a new headquarters.
“He’s clear that he loves the idea that he doesn’t have to be the operating leadership,” Stonesifer said.
Instead “he wants to do strategy and advocacy”, Stonesifer said, which means he will focus on better understanding the problems the foundation is trying to address. That includes sitting down with government, business and non-profit leaders to advocate for them to spend more money on world health, hunger and poverty.
His wife, Melinda Gates, will take a similar approach, although she is involved in planning the new building.
Gates by numbers
2: Books he has written (“The Road Ahead” and “Business @ the Speed of Thought”).
11: Microsoft employees when company was founded in 1975.
31: Age when Gates became youngest self-made billionaire (1987).
27.63: Dollar closing price yesterday of a single Microsoft share.
58 billion: Net worth in dollars, according to Forbes list of richest people (Gates is No 1).
63,564: Current Microsoft employees worldwide (30,255 in the Seattle area).
977,499,336: Numbers of Microsoft shares held by Gates.
39.79 billion: Revenue in dollars for Microsoft in 2005.
466: Facilities owned or leased worldwide by Microsoft.
29.1 billion: Dollars controlled by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
10.2 billion: Dollars promised in grants by the Gates Foundation.
53,392,200: Assessed dollar value of his Medina home (land value: $9,122,200).
66,000: Square footage of his home and surrounding buildings.
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