Bill Gates Is Staying as Microsoft's 'Tech Advisor'

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Microsoft's (MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates will remain on the company's board of directors as a technology advisor, in a move that will give the billionaire a more hands on role at the company as Satya Nadella takes the reins of the company from outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer.

Microsoft said on Tuesday Gates will step down as chairman of Microsoft's board of directors and will assume a new role as founder and technology advisor. The new role will allow Gates to "devote more time to the company, supporting Nadella in shaping technology and product direction.," Microsoft said in a press release. As part of the board change, John Thompson, lead independent director of Microsoft's board will assume the chairman role.

The board reshuffle comes as Microsoft changes CEO's for the first time in well over a decade.

Now that Ballmer is stepping down from the CEO role, Gates appears poised to take a more active role in the company's operations, possibly helping to steer Nadella in his early years. Microsoft said Gates will advise Nadella on the direction of the company's products and its technology, but said little more in a press release.

It is widely assumed Nadella, an executive who has been instrumental in building Microsoft's cloud software capabilities, may focus his efforts on steering the company's software offering beyond the PC, where it has a dominant market share. In his later years at Microsoft, outgoing CEO Ballmer struggled to develop successful mass market tablet and smartphone offerings that could usher the company into an era of mobile technology.

Nadella is likely to continue to press Microsoft's investment in cloud technologies and mobility, however, it remains to be seen whether he will focus as much attention on consumer products.

Since joining the company in 1992, Nadella biggest influence at Microsoft has been in integrating the company's Bing, Xbox, and Office services within its cloud infrastructure. Those experiences indicate Nadella has had an important hand in many of Microsoft's most important product offerings.

"This is a software-powered world," Nadella said in a letter to employees on Tuesday. "I am here because we have unparalleled capability to make an impact."

Part of Nadella's early years may be about building better communication of Microsoft's new software offerings such as Office 365 to customers and investors. Nadella will now count Gates as an advisor on Microsoft's board as he seeks to lay out a path forward for the Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft.

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