Gates to step back from regular role at Microsoft in two years

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Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates announced Thursday that he will transition out of a regular role at the software giant by July 2008 to focus more time on his charitable foundation.

Gates, though, will stay on as the company’s chairman and an adviser on major projects, but his daily responsibility will be to spend more time on health and education work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s CTO since Ozzie’s company, Groove Networks, was acquired by Redmond in April 2005, immediately will replace Gates as chief software architect. Meanwhile, another CTO, Craig Mundie, who joined Microsoft in 1992, will take over as chief research and strategy officer.

"Our business and technical leadership has never been stronger, and Microsoft is well-positioned for success in years ahead," Gates said. "I feel very fortunate to have such great technical leaders like (Ozzie) and (Mundie) at the company."

Gates’ announcement comes as Microsoft continues to wrestle with ongoing delays over the release the Vista operating system, now scheduled to hit the market early next year.

Gates and other Microsoft officials have promised Vista will simplify security for both system administrators and end users while offering next generation features.

Mike Nash, head of Microsoft's Security Technology Unit, was to step down this month from his position to go on sabbatical. He was to be replaced by Ben Fathi, who now works as general manager for storage and high availability in the Windows group.

The move is part of larger shake-up within the company's Platform and Services Division that has been rumored to be at least partially linked with the most Vista delays.

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