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Gates chokes up, WEEPS to Microsoft shareholders amid talk of CEO hunt

First Ballmer, now Bill. Who isn't getting tearful at Redmond?

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Bill Gates today delivered an emotional speech to the Microsoft shareholders, choking up as he described his history with the company and the search for a successor for his friend Steve Ballmer.

"We've got a commitment to see that the next CEO is the right person, for the right time, for the company we both love," said Gates, with a trembling voice and much throat clearing. "We share a commitment that Microsoft will succeed as a company that makes the world a better place."

Microsoft was unusual, Gates said, in that the company has only had two CEOs in its 38-year history. He said he was pleased with progress so far, but didn't give any indications as to who Ballmer's successor will be – shy and retiring Ballmer is due to step down as Microsoft chief exec next year.

Gates said that ideally the board were looking for someone with experience in leading a technological organization. Microsoft is still scratching the surface of what could be done with computing he asserted.

It's obviously an emotional time for the company. Last week Steve Ballmer gave a tear-streaked interview in which he too got an attack of the sniffles, while recounting that he might have been a problem for Microsoft as the firm seeks to reinvent itself from its desktop roots.

At Tuesday's meeting, Ballmer told shareholders that he was still a major stockholder in the company and would be hanging onto his shares after he stepped down. Microsoft will benefit from the takeover of Nokia, he added, and would offer a range of devices that will ensure the company's long-term success.

"We are focusing on a family of high-value activities," he said, Marketwatch reports. "The questions we ask ourselves are what do people really need. Everybody who works has a real need to be productive."

As the Microsoft meeting was in progress, Nokia announced that its shareholders had voted to accept Redmond's bid for the firm by a margin of 99 per cent. This also frees up Nokia boss Stephen Elop to seek a new position – filling Ballmer's shoes perhaps? ®

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