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Gates Still Working Behind the Scenes at Microsoft

Most of the headlines Bill Gates makes these days relate to his philanthropic work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation or to his default role as a public intellectual. He's frequently quoted on topics ranging from technology trends to global health to economics to environmental issues to his current reading list.

Rarely any more is Gates deployed by Microsoft as an intentional public spokesman. Yet the Microsoft co-founder is still deeply involved in some operations at the company.

When Satya Nadella took over as CEO in early 2014, Microsoft made a point to communicate that Gates would be getting more involved on a week-to-week basis with the company than he had been during the latter part of Steve Ballmer's tenure as CEO.

"I'm thrilled that Satya has asked me to step up, substantially increasing the time that I spend at the company," Gates said in a welcome video accompanying Nadella's promotion to CEO. "I'll have over a third of my time available to meet with product groups, and it will be fun to define this next round of products, working together."

At the time, Gates' technical adviser role was widely viewed as a critical step to reassure investors that Nadella, who was less well-known on Wall Street than he was in Silicon Valley, would be able to handle the CEO job. Adding to the potential for investor skittishness was the simultaneous move by Microsoft to lower Gates' profile on the Microsoft board of directors by having him trade the chairman's role for a regular seat.

Most of those concerns have evaporated as Microsoft stayed near the forefront of a historic run in tech stocks over the last few years. Microsoft's stock value has roughly tripled on Nadella's watch. "He's done a good job of repositioning the company in investors' minds," Ballmer said of Nadella during an interview with Bloomberg in July.

Consequently, there's been a lot less attention paid to Gates' role at Microsoft. Nonetheless, in a pre-recorded Wired video segment about key moments in Gates' life and career that was posted last week, Gates confirmed that he's still putting in time with engineers and technical strategists in Redmond.

"Even to this day I do some architecture things on the various products," Gates said during the segment.

Posted by Scott Bekker on 10/22/2018 at 10:18 AM


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