Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff says that Bill Gates should take the helm at Microsoft as interim CEO for three years as a way to turn around the company. That's exactly what Microsoft doesn't need. Here's why.
"There is no clear candidate with the visionary skills to turn company around other than Bill Gates. He wouldn't just be a magnet for a new vision, but for a talent pool of leadership."
He says that Gates should take the job for only three years, as a way to right the company, and then turn over the reins to a hand-picked successor. He explained:
"He could come back with new ways to run the company, let (his wife) Melinda run the charitable foundation, make changes and identify the next leader to come, with a clear window of three years."
Let's start off with reality: It's not going to happen. Gates has clearly said that he's not interested in the job. And even though a U.K. bookie as put the odds at 50 to 1 of him becoming CEO, the odds are actually far longer than that.
Not only won't it happen, but it shouldn't happen. As I've said before, Gates isn't the right person to save Microsoft. It's true that Gates did a brilliant job of building Microsoft, and to a great extent was the person most responsible for putting computing and technology at the center of the world economy and of people's lives.
But when Microsoft was at the height of its power, he lost focus. He pointed out in his famous "The Internet Tidal Wave" memo to Microsoft employees that "The Internet is the most important single development to come along since the IBM PC was introduced in 1981." But then he let Google become dominant in search, while Microsoft was left behind. And he also missed his chances in mobile. Even though Microsoft had a smartphone OS and tablet before Apple, it was Apple that built those markets, and Microsoft continues to struggle in them.
For years, his focus has been on philanthropy, and he has done a remarkable job at it. He's become the world's greatest philanthropist, not only bettering millions of people's lives, but helping change the way philanthropy works, using a data-driven, results-oriented approach. But because he's been away from day-to-day operations in the heart of the tech world for so long, he'd face a learning curve at Microsoft, something the company can't afford.
So no, Bill Gates is the wrong person to head Microsoft, even on an interim basis. Microsoft and the world will be much better off if he uses his considerable talents for something much more important than that: Running the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to make the world a better place.