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Ballmer can exhale: Bill Gates rules out Microsoft return

Microsoft cofounder also feels no pain from Jobs jibes

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Bill Gates won't be coming back to Microsoft to retake the reins from embattled CEO Steve Ballmer – so says none other than Bill Gates himself.

"I've made the transistion to work full-time on the [Bill & Melinda Gates] Foundation," Gates told an interviewer from The Sydney Morning Herald, "and that'll be what I do for the rest of my life."

Microsoft investors unhappy with Ballmer's performance – but who nevertheless reelected him with 92 per cent of shareholders' votes – may have been heartened by a recent rumor reported by Fortune that Gates would return to replace Ballmer.

But a full-time return isn't in the cards, Gates says.

"I'm part-time involved with Microsoft – even being in touch this week to give some of my advice," Gates said. "But that's not going to change."

His philanthopic work is – and will be – his focus, he said. "The Foundation requires all of my energy, and we feel we're having great impact: picking good scientists, being able to look at what's working, what's not working. So, part-time Microsoft, full-time Foundation for all my future."

When asked if he was enjoying his work with the Foundation, Gates said "Oh, absolutely. ... I'm getting to know mosquito experts like the people at Monash [University] or banana experts like the people at Queensland [University Institute of Technology]," referring to two Australian institutions that have received major grants from his foundation.

"I love all this work," Gates said. "And I love seeing that, hey, we're really having an impact."

When his interlocutor asked him about Steve Jobs' comment that he was a better philanthropist than a software developer, Gates was diplomatic. "Well, certainly Steve was brilliant. I enjoyed working with him on Mac software, I enjoyed competing with him."

He did, however, admit that Jobs was frequently critical of Microsoft. After all, Jobs had once said that "The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. I don't mean that in a small way. I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don't think of original ideas and they don't bring much culture into their products."

Jobs was also quoted in the recent best-selling biography by Walter Isaacson as saying "Of course, [Gates'] fragmented model worked, but it didn’t make really great products. It produced crappy products. That was the problem. The big problem."

Gates had a ready reason for Jobs' prickliness. "Because the Microsoft machines outsold his machines by a lot, he was always kind of tough on Microsoft," he said, then added magnanimously, "But that's fine. He was a brilliant person. Our work at Microsoft was super-successful for all good reasons, but Steve made huge contributions."

The Steve who made huge contributions and to whom Gates was referring was Jobs. Ballmer's name did not come up during the interview. ®

Bootnote

While Bill Gates says he'll devote "all of my energy" to philanthropy, Steve Jobs' biographer Isaacson reportedly told a San Francisco gathering on Wednesday that one topic he was not allowed to discuss with the late Apple cofounder was what would become of his fortune after he was no longer around to enjoy it.

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