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Bill Gates Steps Down as CEO; Ballmer Promoted to President and CEO
Gates Remains Chairman and Creates New Role of Chief Software Architect

With the completion and near launch of Windows 2000, Microsoft's Bill Gates apparently is breathing a bit easier. In a surprise announcement, Gates said that he was stepping down as CEO and promoting Steve Ballmer as President and CEO.

Gates will remain as chairman and has created a new position for himself called Chief Software Architect. He aims to dedicate his time to helping drive innovation at Microsoft.

Also announced today is Microsoft's plans toassemble the first Internet-based platform of Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS) for powering new products and services. Microsoft said that a key set of NGWS will be hosted on the Internet and will be infused into future versions of Windows.

"These are dramatic times in our industry. As we look ahead to what it will take to do an amazing job executing against ournew strategic direction of building next-generation services for ourcustomers, we recognize that we must refocus and reallocate our resources andtalents against our key priorities and challenges," said Gates in a statement.

"I'm returning to what I love most -- focusing on technologies for thefuture. This was a personal decision, one I have discussed with Steve and ourboard of directors for some time. Although I've been able to spend more timeon our technical strategy since naming Steve as president in July 1998, I feltthat the opportunities for Microsoft were incredible, yet our structure wasn'toptimal to really take advantage of them to the degree that we should.Steve's promotion will allow me to dedicate myself full-time to my passion-- building great software and strategizing on the future, and nurturing andcollaborating with the core team helping Steve run the company."

Ballmer would also become a member of the Microsoft Board of Directors effective January 27.