Bill Gates to return to Microsoft? It'll never happen.

By Preston Gralla

Fortune magazine reports that Bill Gates is considering returning to run Microsoft. But that's little more than wishful thinking on the part of those who are less than enamored with Steve Ballmer's handling of the company. Gates will never return as head of the company he founded.

Fortune reports that "One prominent chief executive told Fortune he'd heard from someone close to Gates that he might be considering" returning to run Microsoft. That's about as poor a source as I've seen used by a reputable publication, citing an "unnamed chief executive," who had heard from "someone close to Gate." That's the first red flag in this story: If there were anything more substantial to the rumor, there would be a more substantial source for it.

That's just the beginning, though. Gates has said on more than one occasion that he's not interested in returning to Microsoft. The Fortune story itself notes:

Gates has been cool to the idea publicly, rebuffing it in 2010 and again this year in June, when he told the Daily Mail his work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation "is my job now."

Gates has made clear that his life's work is philanthropy, through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and through his work with Warren Buffet to get the wealthy to give away at least half their fortunes to philanthropy.

Gates already more than made his mark in the tech world, building the world's most influential and wealthiest software company. Now he has bigger things on his mind: Saving the lives and bettering the lives of many millions of people.

He has made clear that will be his legacy more than building Microsoft. Just read this note that he sent to members of the Harvard community:

I hope you will reflect on what you've done with your talent and energy. I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how well you work to address the world's deepest inequities, on how well you treat people a world away who have nothing in common with you but their humanity.

So no, Gates won't be returning to Microsoft -- he has much more important things to do.

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