It’s official: The Microsoft 2.0 era has begun

Chairman Bill Gates’ last day in the office as a full-time Microsoft employee has come and gone. (It was Friday June 27.)

At the Friday Town Hall meeting for Microsoft employees, Gates shared a few parting sentiments — and, along with CEO Steve Ballmer — shed a few tears. (Microsoft blogger Steven Bink has actual video footage of the Town Hall meeting and the tears — see the clips starting with “Ballmer — Changing the World.”)

There has been so much coverage of Gates and his legacy over the past week-plus on TV and radio, in newspapers, magazines and blogs, that it’s impossible to provide a full list. Here are a few of the many clips. (And yes, I am favoring clips where yours truly and the Microsoft 2.0 book got a shout out.)

The Economist: After Bill

ABC News: Geek Goliath: Gates Says G’Bye to Microsoft

National Public Radio: Gates Retires from Daily Role at Microsoft

Investor’s Business Daily: Curtain Call: Gates Exits Main Microsoft Stage

Gizmodo: Bill Gates Retirement Party (review of Microsoft 2.0)

Wired: The Many (Geeky) Faces of Bill Gates

Reuters: Life After Gates

Reuters: Ballmer becomes lone voice at Microsoft’s helm

Meanwhile, here are the internal e-mail messages that Gates and Ballmer sent to the Microsoft troops on June 27:

From: Bill Gates
Sent: Friday, June 27, 2008 10:40 AM
To: Microsoft – All Employees (QBDG)
Subject: My last full-time day at Microsoft
I want to share some thoughts on my last day as a full-time Microsoft employee.

For the last 33 years, I’ve had the ideal job. It’s been incredibly exciting to come here every day to work with the smartest people in the world to develop breakthrough software. Together, we have built a great company that has profoundly changed the world for the better.

After today, I will be shifting my full-time focus to the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation while keeping a strong connection to Microsoft.

The fact that I am making a career change does not mean that our work at Microsoft is done. In fact, the most exciting impact of our software is still ahead of us. Everything we have done up to now is just the foundation for the more dramatic breakthroughs to come. As you apply the magic of software to delivering a new generation of innovations, this company will continue to transform the way people communicate, create, and share experiences.

Microsoft is in an incredible position because we have momentum and a great pipeline of products and technologies. Even more important, we have great people at every level. In research and development we have great engineers focused on solving the most pressing challenges in computer science and turning new ideas into innovative products. In marketing, sales, and customer service, our world-class organizations keep getting better.

We also have strong leadership. As Microsoft has grown, one of the most exciting and fulfilling things for me has been to watch new leaders develop.

It starts at the very top. For the last 28 years, I have loved working side by side with Steve. Even now after all these years I am regularly impressed with his energy and insight. I think he and I have enjoyed one of the great business partnerships of all time. Steve has done a great job leading the company since he became CEO in 2000. Steve’s passion for democratizing the power of technology and inspiring customers, partners, and employees will keep us driving ahead.

I am thrilled to have Ray and Craig playing key roles in guiding the company’s strategy. For over a decade I had hoped that we could convince Ray to join Microsoft—and in the three years he has been here, he has made a huge difference in helping us focus on the challenge and opportunity of software plus services. I have worked with Craig for more than 15 years. His ability to anticipate the future direction of technology is a key asset, as is his deep interest in and understanding of emerging markets.

Of course, I’ll continue to be involved in the work of the company as part-time Chairman. As part of this I will help with a handful of projects that Steve, Ray, and Craig select.

As I reflect on the last three decades, the thing I’m proudest of is the role that this company has played in making the power of digital technology accessible and affordable. Software running on personal computers and other devices is the best tool for empowerment in human history. Microsoft founded the personal computer software business and we built the platforms that enabled the software industry to develop. Without your contributions, we would not have succeeded in making our dream of a computer on every desk and in every home a reality for more than 1 billion people worldwide—a dream we will extend to everyone in the future.

As I make the transition to focus more of my time and energy on the Gates Foundation, I am looking forward to applying the lessons I’ve learned—and, in some cases, the technologies that we have developed—to help address some of the critical issues that people around the world face in education, economic development, and health.

I want to thank all of you for your hard work and your dedication. It has been a privilege and an inspiration to come to Microsoft every day. I look forward to the amazing, world-changing innovations you will deliver in the years ahead as you continue the great work this company has always done.

From: Steve Ballmer
Sent: Friday, June 27, 2008 11:40 AM
To: Microsoft – All Employees (QBDG)
Subject: Bill’s Transition
I just wanted to add a few thoughts to Bill’s mail.

For the last 28 years, it has been my pleasure and privilege to work side-by-side every day with Bill to help build this great company. Of course it would be impossible to overstate Bill’s contribution as a technology visionary and business leader. Thanks to his vision and insight, Microsoft has delivered incredible innovations that enable people to achieve things every day that once seemed impossible.

For so many of us Bill has been a mentor, a colleague, and an inspiration. He has challenged us to do our very best work, and it has been an honor to try to live up to his expectations. For my part, I’ve had the incredible good fortune to have Bill as a great friend and a wonderful business partner. I’m grateful for the opportunity he gave me when he convinced me to drop out of business school to join the company. I can’t imagine a better way to have spent the last 28 years.

As much as I’ll miss Bill’s day to day presence here, I’m excited and deeply inspired by the step he is taking. The impact he will have on world health and education as he shifts his focus to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will be amazing. Bill’s passion for empowering people and his commitment to making the world a better place have always been among his most important defining traits—this transition is a logical and important next step forward for him.

At the same time, we will continue to do amazing things here at Microsoft. Working together, we have created an incredible culture of innovation and accomplishment that will provide the foundation for future breakthroughs and even greater success.

During the last three decades, building on Bill’s insights about software and computing, we’ve transformed the way businesses operate and revolutionized the way people communicate, share information, and access entertainment. We helped create an industry that provides jobs for millions of people around the globe. We have delivered tools that have changed hundreds of millions of people’s lives for the better.

But for all we’ve achieved, I believe we’re just getting started. We’re in the midst of one of the most exciting periods in the history of this industry. Computing continues to become more powerful, more portable, and more affordable. Content, communications, and media are shifting entirely to digital formats. The combination of software plus services is transforming the way we create and deliver computing experiences. Online social networks are changing how people interact with each other. Gestures, voice, and other natural user interface capabilities are changing the way people interact with computers. New tools for developers are making it easier to take advantage of multicore processors and to deliver rich, connected experiences.

These trends are creating incredible new opportunities in our industry. And no company is better positioned to take advantage of these opportunities than Microsoft. No company has the tradition of innovation that we do, or the expertise across such a wide range of technologies. No company can match the breadth of our talent or the depth of our leadership.

Today, I believe that we’re poised to deliver a new generation of innovations that will have an even greater impact on people’s lives. That’s what this company has always really been about—finding new ways to use technology to make the world a better place. We’ve done that for a billion people during the last 30 years, and we’ll do it for billions more during the next 30 years.

This is not to say that we don’t face difficult challenges. But in the past, we have always done our best work when our job was to tackle the most pressing challenges. I’m absolutely confident this will be true as we move forward.

There’s no doubt that Bill’s last day as a fulltime Microsoft employee marks an important milestone in the company’s history. But the truth is that not much will change. Bill will continue to play a key role as Chairman of the company. And we’ll all continue to work together to deliver innovative products and services that improve people’s lives and create new opportunities for Microsoft, our customers, and our partners.

I want to close by extending a heartfelt thank you to Bill for his friendship, his partnership, his insight, and his inspiration.

Bill — It has been an amazing and wonderful 28 years for me, and I know that everyone at this company shares my respect and admiration for what you have achieved. We look forward to seeing what you do in the next phase of your career as we continue to build the great company that you launched more than three decades ago.


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