Microsoft on Friday announced that co-founder Bill Gates has left its board of directors to devote more time to philanthropy.
Gates, 64, was Microsoft’s CEO until 2000 and since then has gradually scaled back his involvement in the company he started with Paul Allen in 1975.
He transitioned out of a day-to-day role in Microsoft in 2008 and served as chairman of the board until 2014.
The billionaire announced Friday that he’s leaving the Microsoft board entirely as well as his seat on the board of Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate headed by fellow billionaire Warren Buffett.
Gates said he plans to dedicate more time to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and will remain a technology adviser to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and other company leaders.
“It’s been a tremendous honor and privilege to have worked with and learned from Bill over the years,” Nadella said in a release.
“Bill founded our company with a belief in the democratizing force of software and a passion to solve society’s most pressing challenges; and Microsoft and the world are better for it.”
Nadella said Microsoft would continue to benefit from Gates’ “technical passion and advice” in his continuing role as a technical advisor.
“I am grateful for Bill’s friendship and look forward to continuing to work alongside him,” Nadella said.
Computing and compassion
Gates left his CEO position in 2000, handing the company reins to Steve Ballmer to devote more time to his charitable foundation.
He gave up the role of chairman at the same time Nadella became Microsoft’s third CEO in 2014.
Regularly listed among the world’s richest people, William H. Gates was a geeky-looking young man when he and Paul Allen co-founded Microsoft in 1975.
Gates grew up in Seattle with two sisters. His father William was an attorney and his late mother Mary was a schoolteacher and chairwoman of United Way International.
He began programming computers as a 13-year-old student and fell in love with the machines. Among the tales told about Gates is that while working on school computers, he tinkered with programming to put himself in classes made up mostly of girls.
With his parents’ blessing, Gates dropped out of Harvard to start “Micro-soft” with his late childhood friend Allen.
A key move was to focus on licensing software to computer makers in numerous “partnerships” that resulted in affordable machines being available to the masses.
As the personal computer market grew, Microsoft became the world’s top software company. Its virtual monopoly led to a much-publicized antitrust trial, in which the company managed to avert a break-up but had to endure years of government monitoring.
Gates went on to turn his attention from software to fighting disease and other humanitarian challenges with his wife, under the auspices of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Gates is a historic figure in the technology world and his legacy at Microsoft will be felt in Redmond for decades to come,” said Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said in a note to investors.
Microsoft in Israel
Microsoft first opened a local branch in Israel in 1989, and established its first R&D center in the country — its first outside the US — in 1991. It also currently operates a venture capital fund and a startup accelerator, Microsoft Ventures, in Israel.
Earlier this year, the tech giant announced that it would set up its first cloud data center in Israel next year. Microsoft’s global cloud infrastructure currently caters to 56 regions in 21 countries, serving over a billion customers and 20 million businesses. The company’s Israel data center would comply with security and privacy requirements for data storage in Israel and Europe.
In 2016 when Microsoft marked the 25th anniversary of the Microsoft Israel R&D center, Gates joined in virtually via video link, thanking the Israeli team and telling them that Israeli developments in tech areas like analytics and security were “improving the world.”
“I have been very impressed with what they have done in the past 25 years, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with in the next 25,” Gates said at the time.
Gates paid a visit to Israel in 2005 when he was still Microsoft CEO.