Some may see hope for Microsoft in Bill Gates leaving his role as chairman of Microsoft's board to take on a new position as technology advisor. But as brilliant as Gates is, he's the wrong person at the wrong time. Here's why.
When Microsoft named Satya Nadella as CEO, it also said that Gates will leave as chairman of the board to become Founder and Technology Advisor. A Microsoft statement said Gates would "devote more time to the company, supporting Nadella in shaping technology and product direction."
In a video about his new position and Nadella's appointment, Gates said he'll be spending one-third of his time meeting with product groups, and that he'll be having a role in defining new products and strategies.
This is not a good thing. Gates certainly did a remarkable job in building Microsoft. But many of Microsoft's woes had their seeds sown under Gates' leadership, especially ones related to mobile. Back in 2001, when Gates had left as CEO but was company's chief software architect, Microsoft announced its Tablet PC. His vision was thoroughly off the mark: It was a full-blown computer in tablet form, costing thousands of dollars and running Windows. No one wanted one. After the initial failure, Microsoft essentially abandoned the tablet. Nine years after the Tablet PC, Apple released the iPad, and tablet computing took off. Microsoft was there first, and could have owned the market.
Similarly, under Gates Microsoft had a smartphone operating system years before the iPhone. Released in 2000, it was called Windows Mobile and built on earlier versions of various Windows mobile operating systems. Microsoft released iteration after iteration of it. Once again, when Apple released the iPhone, the iPhone created the market and Microsoft was left behind
Microsoft has never recovered from Windows Mobile and the Tablet PC in mobile. It lags far behind iOS and Android, and its Windows 8 tablets lag far behind the iPad and Android tablets.
Microsoft needs more than anything right now, fresh blood and fresh ideas. Having the 22-year company veteran Satya Nadella head the company, and Gates be more involved in product development, won't help the company with new ideas. If Microsoft wants to be primarily an enterprise-focused company that's an also-ran in mobile and without a strong consumer presence, then Nadella and Gates are a solid duo. But if the company wants to rejuvenate itself, it needs something else.