Gates leaves Microsoft to focus on charity

Gates leaves Microsoft to focus on charitySan Francisco  - His vision for a computer in every home largely achieved in the developed world, Bill Gates ended his full- time job at Microsoft on Friday to focus on charity work aimed at improving healthcare and eradicating extreme poverty in the third world.

"There won't be a day in my life when I won't be thinking about Microsoft, the great things that we're doing and wanting to help," said a teary-eyed Gates, 52, at a company event.

Gates founded the 260-billion-dollar company in 1975 and has been transferring much of his fortune into the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Thanks also to donations from the world's richest man, Warren Buffet, the foundation is now the largest charity in the world with assets of almost 40 billion dollars. Both men have pledged to donate almost all their fortunes to the foundation before they die.

Gates plans to work on high-level strategy at the charity and also to use his clout as one of the world's richest men to push forward its agenda on a full-time basis. However he will remain non-executive chairman of Microsoft and plans to devote about one day a week to working there.

Gates handed over his role as Microsoft chief executive to his long-time partner Steve Ballmer in 2000, when Gates became the company's chief software architect.

Under a carefully planned succession programme, Gate's duties will be taken over by two top Microsoft executives. Ray Ozzie will be in charge of day-to-day management issues, while Craig Mundie will be in charge of long-term planning.

But Ballmer admitted Friday that despite the careful planning, the company founder will be sorely missed at company, which has reputedly made 10,000 of its employees millionaires.

"There's no way to say thanks to Bill. Bill's the founder. Bill's the leader," said Ballmer at the internal tribute event. "This is Bill's baby."

The company, whose Windows operating system powers some 90 per cent of the world's personal computers, has a market capitalization of about 260 billion dollars and employs more than 78,000 people in 103 countries.

But even as its cash cow products of Windows and the Office productivity suite look set to continue their stellar earnings, Microsoft faces tough competition as Google's online dominance threatens to cut into Microsoft's core businesses.

Despite the company's failed attempt to buy Yahoo as an antidote to Google, most analysts believe Microsoft will continue to thrive even without Gates at the helm.

"I've seen (Microsoft) bat away one mortal threat after another - and I see no reason to believe that Google's turn will not come, too," said Rob Helm of research company Directions. "Bill has been there so long he has lots of 'Baby Bills' that represent the same culture: very smart, very aggressive and focused on meeting competition head on." (dpa)

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