Reuters reports that three of the top twenty Microsoft investors want Bill Gates to step down as chairman of the board, and are lobbying other board members to put pressure on the Microsoft co-founder. However sources claim that there's no indication the company board will actually heed the wishes of these three investors.
The news isn't all that surprising given the company is entering into a new era of devices and services. The news also arrives after CEO Steve Ballmer said last month that he is taking an early retirement within the next twelve months. Gates has been one of Ballmer's biggest supporters since he handed the CEO reigns to Ballmer back in 2000.
According to the sources, the three investors are concerned that the presence of Bill Gates, who co-founded the company 38 years ago, could block the adoption of new strategies, and limit the new CEO's power to make substantial changes. They're also worried about Gates' role on the special committee for seeking out a new CEO.
Currently Gates is the company's largest individual shareholder, owning about 4.5 percent of the $277 billion company. He owned 49 percent of Microsoft before it went public in 1986, and is now selling about 80 million Microsoft shares a year under a pre-set plan. By 2018, he is expected to have no financial stake in the company.
That said, shareholders are worried that Gates currently wields too much power, that this power is out of proportion to his declining shareholding. Of course, he is a co-founder, chairman of the board and former CEO, but sources point to his philanthropic foundation that consumes most of his time. Maybe it's time for Gates to let go and let the company flourish or wither and die on its own.
While Microsoft searches for a replacement for Ballmer, the company is gearing up to launch Windows 8.1 later this month, followed by the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets and the highly-anticipated Xbox One. Windows Phone 8.1 is expected to arrive in the spring along with another Windows 8 update, Modern UI apps for Office, and the Surface 2 LTE model.
Microsoft's shift to a devices and services company is in response to losing ground in the mobile arena to Google and Apple. The decline in the desktop market also pushed the company to design a platform that fits both the desktop and mobile form factors, and a Windows platform that works on the two leading architectures: ARM and x86. Sources claim that the Windows platform will become more unified across all devices this spring.
The Microsoft insiders told Reuters that although Bill Gates is one of the technology industry's greatest pioneers, he was more effective as a CEO than as the chairman of the board.