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Bill Gates leaves Microsoft board of directors, signaling the end of an era

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Bill Gates announced on Friday that he’ll depart Microsoft’s board of directors some 12 years after he stepped back from his role as acting CEO to join the board. 

The move isn’t exactly sudden - Gates has been dedicating more and more of his time to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - but it marks the end of his official tenure at the world-famous software giant. 

Gates’ departure comes at a time that Microsoft is gearing up for its next generation of home video game consoles, dubbed the Xbox Series X, as well as the upcoming launch of the Microsoft Surface Neo, the company’s first dual-screen PC with Windows 10X, and its game-streaming service, Project xCloud.

The tech icon has sat on Microsoft’s board since 2008, when he stepped down as the company’s CEO, and still owns 1.36% of Microsoft’s shares according to CNBC. Gates says that he'll stick around in an informal role as current Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's 'technology advisor', but it sounds like more of an honorary title than a legitimate position. 

Microsoft has not yet named a replacement for Gates’ position, but Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has released the following statement: 

“It’s been a tremendous honor and privilege to have worked with and learned from Bill over the years. 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. The board has benefited from Bill’s leadership and vision. And Microsoft will continue to benefit from Bill’s ongoing technical passion and advice to drive our products and services forward.

“I am grateful for Bill’s friendship and look forward to continuing to work alongside him to realize our mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”

A Microsoft without Bill Gates

Microsoft will be a different place without Gates, the man responsible for its ascension to popularity in the '90s and early Aughts. Gates saw the company through the launch of its most successful software and hardware, including the original Xbox and, before that, Windows 95. 

While Gates is departing the company he helped build, it should allay investors' fears that his influence isn't entirely over, as he says he'll still serve as a "technology advisor" to current CEO Satya Nadella, at least in the short term. 

It's also worth pointing out that the company has done just fine without Gates at the helm - back in April of 2019, it became of the world's first trillion-dollar companies alongside Apple and Amazon, and is still the market leader in operating systems.

Microsoft has been struggling a bit in 2020 with a number of Windows 10 bugs and increased competition in the gaming space from Sony, Nintendo and Google, but the launch of the next-gen consoles could move things in Microsoft's favor. 

Ultimately, Gates' departure is symbolic and one well-worth observing with both a bit of joy and sorrow that his time on the company's board is now over.