The retirement of Bill Gates is imminent. In July he will step away from his full time duties at Microsoft and devote his time to charity work at the Gates Foundation. However, he will continue to be the chairman of Microsoft, which has seemingly left the door open for a future return.

The timing couldn’t be worse, or better, depending on who you talk to. Microsoft — although still insanely profitable — is in a fight for the future of the personal technology platform. We are moving toward a post-PC world. Microsoft is still the king of the PC, and is stuck in the innovator’s dilemma in trying to move beyond it.

Gates successfully led Microsoft through previous challenges and transitions, including the move to graphical user interfaces and the arrival of the Internet as the PC’s greatest killer app. However, the current transition is much deeper and more fundamental and it has the potential to marginalize Microsoft in the technology industry’s next great wave of innovation, which will be centered around the Internet as a platform and not just an application.

Some would say that this is when Microsoft needs Gates the most. Others would argue that Microsoft needs to get beyond Gates — the PC’s greatest champion — if it wants to continue to be a leader in the technology world.

Take the poll: Is the retirement of Bill Gates a good thing or a bad thing for Microsoft?

CNET’s Dan Farber, who has deftly covered the technology revolution for the past two decades, has a detailed and fairly optimistic assessment of the Gates transition. On Wednesday, Farber interviewed ZDNet columnist Mary Jo Foley, who has a more dour opinion of the post-Gates Microsoft and has recently published a new book, Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft Plans to Stay Relevant in the Post-Gates Era.

In her book Foley wrote that “a Gates-less Microsoft is going to be a directionless Microsoft–at least for the near term. The existing set of to managers is too mired in old thinking and old ways to turn the Redmond ship quickly.”

Check out the interview between Farber and Foley:

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