Gates has worn many hats over the years: geeky developer, business shark, and more recently, philanthropist. While there have been plenty of criticisms of Gates' business practices over the years, most admit that he's done a pretty good job of working Microsoft up to its current position in the market.
But I'm unconvinced that it was really Gates who was ready to go. I'm inclined to believe that the other founding member still with the company - Steve Ballmer - is the one that should be moving on.
Ballmer gained the position of CEO in 2000, and since then Microsoft has failed to release a massive success. Sure, Windows XP shipped out under Ballmer's stewardship, but that was locked in stone before he got the gig. Since then, there have been a few updates to existing products like office, the monumental confusion surrounding exactly what .NET was, and what it could do, and massive delays to the next consumer and server OS - Vista.
The only major highlight during Steve's time driving the company has been the launch of Windows Server 2003, and even that was built on top of Windows 2000 code.
Ballmer has even changed his tune over time, reflecting the company's changing market focus. Who could forget the memorable "developers, developers, developers" video that was widely distributed throughout the IT community? For those that missed it, check out http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6304687408656696643. Dancing Steve is now spruiking a new chapter in Microsoft's evolution, as he explains in a video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fj3FOHc-fgA.
Microsoft is focusing on the Web at the moment, and a lot of the new direction will come from Ray Ozzie, who has been employed as Chief Software Architect.
Ozzie's tech kung-fu is strong, and he is a guru of modern software engineering, having previously been a driving force behind the creation of Lotus Notes. His hiring highlights how much Microsoft is willing to spend to change direction and focus on threats from companies like Google and Yahoo!.
Steve Ballmer's temper is well-publicised, but an incident reported to have occurred when Mark Lucovsky told him he was leaving for Google may show the reason. Ballmer was allegedly so enraged by the news that he threw a chair and promised to "F@($ing bury Google". The event has since been described by Ballmer as a "gross exaggeration".
If it's true, in an IT world where companies are increasingly speaking of interoperability, collaboration, and shared resources, I suspect that Ballmer's way of thinking is heading the way of the dodo.
What do you think? Does Microsoft need a bigger shakeup?