Bill Gates formally steps down from his day-to-day role at Microsoft on Friday 27 June to pursue his philanthropic efforts through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and IT chiefs have hailed his legacy to the industry.

Gates founded Microsoft in 1975 after dropping out of his course at Harvard University and’s 12-strong CIO Jury IT user panel unanimously voted that he leaves behind a positive legacy for the computer and IT industry.

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Rob Neil, head of ICT and customer services at Ashford Borough Council, said: “Like it or not, we now have standardised (almost ubiquitous) operating platforms and productivity applications. It’s difficult to appreciate it now but there have been some genuine innovations made over the last 20 years. And Gates’ original vision of a computer on every desk and in every home is almost realised.

“Granted, Microsoft was in the right place at the right time and if it wasn’t Gates, it would probably been someone else but despite the sniping from some corners, computing is now available to all. If that’s not a positive legacy, I don’t know what is.”

Steve Clarke, director of systems and operations at AOL Broadband, agreed: “Whether you like it or not, Bill Gates has left a positive legacy. The vast majority of businesses out there are supported by his company’s server software and services and they are delivered to the end user via his company’s desktop operation systems and applications. How can anyone not see this as a positive legacy?”

There was some criticism for the anti-competitive methods Microsoft has employed in the past but there was also praise for the way Gates brought computing to the masses.

Nic Bellenberg, IT director at publisher Hachette Filipacchi UK, said: “I’m no great fan of Microsoft but there is no doubt that Bill and Microsoft’s products have made a huge impact on all our lives. Even the controversial aspects have stimulated discussion, debate and competition – despite some dark days of worry about unmovable monopoly, which I think are now behind us. I look forward to his future charitable works with great interest.”

David Supple, head of IT at Ecotec Research & Consulting, added: “If history is written by the victors then Microsoft is still in the advantageous position of portraying its empire in a good light but whilst all empires ultimately fail, they also tend to advance us beyond our starting position, and Microsoft has driven our industry harder and wider than anyone else to achieve the level of ubiquitous computing that we have today.”

But Mike Roberts, IT director at private Harley Street hospital The London Clinic, joked: “His applications have created a large requirement for training and support which has kept my friends and colleagues employed for the past 20 years… Thanks Bill.”

Today’s CIO Jury was…

Alastair Behenna, CIO, Harvey Nash
Nic Bellenberg, IT director, Hachette Filipacchi UK
Chris Broad, head of IM & technology, UK Atomic Energy Authority
Steve Clarke, director of systems and operations, AOL Broadband
Steve Gediking, head of IT & facilities, Independent Police Complaints Commission
John Keeling, director of computer services, John Lewis
Jane Kimberlin, IT director, Domino’s Pizza Group
Rob Neil, head of ICT and customer services, Ashford Borough Council
Peter Pedersen, CTO,
Jacques Rene, CIO, Ascend
Mike Roberts, IT director, The London Clinic
David Supple, head of IT, Ecotec Research & Consulting