Why is Bill Gates Back at Microsoft?

Earlier today, Microsoft named its third CEO as Satya Nadella. Nadella has a strong history in enterprise and cloud services at Microsoft, and since his appointment as CEO, many have assumed (including us) that this is the direction Microsoft is headed. Nadella is taking the reigns and steering Microsoft towards a future that focuses heavily on enterprise software, cloud computing, and big data. That's the big story of the day. But almost as big is the fact that Nadella won't be leading Microsoft alone. Indeed, he'll have some help from founder and former CEO and chairman Bill Gates.

Alongside the appointment of Nadella as CEO, Microsoft announced that Bill Gates would step down from his position as Chairman of the Board and right into the brand new role of 'Technology Advisor' to Satya Nadella. The specifics of this new role have not yet been laid out. Microsoft has only said that Gates will "devote more time to the company, supporting Nadella in shaping technology and product direction."

What does this mean? Why is Bill back? At best, the message is that Satya is the talent and leadership Microsoft needs to succeed in enterprise and cloud computing, a monstrous market, but lacks vision when it comes to consumer product and direction. At worst, Gates' presence is purely to appease shareholders who believe Microsoft needs fresh blood and a true innovator to move forward. A mix of the two is probably most likely. As we said earlier, if Microsoft can leverage its position in the work place in order to expand its reach in enterprise and take it to the next level with cloud services, it's looking at a very bright future. Satya's vision for Microsoft undoubtedly revolves around enterprise, cloud computing, and big data. He definitely doesn't need Bill to help him get there (Microsoft's revenue from Cloud Services went from $16.6 billion to $20.3 billion in the two years after Satya was put in charge of the Cloud and Enterprise group). So Gates' new role is likely just a reassurance that someone with a reputation for innovation and success is still involved, influencing decisions with sound judgement, and offering advice on products.

Investor reaction to Microsoft's announcement was positive. Shares opened at $37.11 this morning, up from yesterday's closing price of $36.48. Things have leveled off a bit as the day has worn on. At time of writing, Microsoft shares were sitting at $36.54. We'd like to see the Sliding Doors scenario where Gates wasn't a part of today's announcement, just so we could see the true reaction to Satya's appointment without the security blanket that is Bill Gates.

The good news for consumers is that two heads are, almost always, better than one. As long as Satya Nadella isn't the kind of man opposed to back-seat drivers, Bill Gates will be able to offer a lot of valuable advice in areas where Satya could probably do with some help. The end result is a stronger and better executed product vision, which is awesome for all computer users.

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  • clutchc
    Technology Adviser? Maybe to save the company before Windows 8 takes it down.
  • hakesterman
    Because the shareholders know that they are pretty much Doomed without him.
  • Datcu Alexandru
    Personally i would love if they either sell the xbox and whoever gets it can take it in a different direction so in the end we would have sony nintendo and ? each one taking their console in a different direction rather than fighting for exclusives and hardware specs.Or they take the xbox along with their vision of the cloud (yeah im starting to hate the term) and make what they originally wanted to do with xbox one but this time do it right and market it right. All digital is fine (just look at steam) but it needs to have advantages like price reduction, better support etc. Or if they keep the full price than that game better offer blow jobs for it.
  • Blazer1985
    The moment I saw him dressed like an angry bird I KNEW he was up to something :-)To answer the youporn devotee: "all digital" is more than fine until you hit the 20-50gb per game of recent AAA titles as it can take days on slower adsl.
  • drwho1
    I will never care about "the cloud" no matter who's in charge.The day that I need extra storage, I will just build a home NAS.
  • brandonjclark
    You're not the audience then, drwho1.
  • ddpruitt
    Bill Gates isn't back at Microsoft, he never left. He's just taking a more active role. It makes sense considering this is the first time Microsoft doesn't have a CEO that was with the company from the beginning. Although I think the board doesn't know what it's doing, you could see the problems with Balmer miles away.
  • vaughn2k
    Well I am not being optimistic about cloud storage and stuff. But I begin to realize, I need something out there, a storage whenever I am on the road, with only a smart phone on hand. Cloud storage gives me an advantage to pull-out my data whenever I need it, good thing is also the Skydrive advantage. it allows me to fetch needed files remotely. I mean this stuff is great, I am just hoping that enough security is in place, so I can place everything in cloud.
  • Rhinofart
    @Multipleads.How on earth can you possibly attribute that to being Windows 8. Disk read errors go back to the very beginning of time (Well computer time anyways) And Any OS on earth can get a disk read error if there is an error on the disk! If your system borked like that, look to your disks rather than the OS.
  • dakkon
    You guys do know that the term "cloud" does not only pertain to online storage? drwho1