Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates announced Thursday he would give up his day-to-day role in the company to focus on philanthropy. David Kirkpatrick, senior editor of Fortune magazine and Stacy Palmer, editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy discuss Bill Gate's move to philanthropy.
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BILL GATES, Microsoft Founder:
I really like this portable computer they made for me.
Entrepreneur, monopolist, philanthropist. All of these have been used to describe Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who, no matter what he does, does it in a very big way. Yesterday came the latest turn, as Gates announced he would give up his day-to-day role in Microsoft to focus on his nonprofit foundation.
I've decided that, two years from today, starting July 2008, I will re-order my personal priorities. Today, I'm working full-time for Microsoft and part-time for the Gates Foundation. Starting two years from now, I will shift to work full-time at the foundation and part-time at Microsoft, as chairman and as a senior technical adviser.
A Harvard dropout, Bill Gates founded Microsoft in 1975 with his college roommate, Paul Allen. His vision: to have a computer on every desk, in every American home and business, running on the software Microsoft supplied.
As the computer revolution took off, the company became a behemoth, the new symbol of American technological power, with Bill Gates, the man, celebrated as its nerdy, but dominating, public face, and then the richest man in the world, today said to be worth around $50 billion.
Both the man and the company have also at times been vilified by rivals who accused Microsoft of anti-competitive, illegal business practices. The U.S. government's suit against Microsoft was the most-watched antitrust case of modern times.
In 1994, Gates and his wife launched what would become the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which to date has given away more than $10 billion to education and global health initiatives, such as vaccines, immunizations and AIDS research.
It's now the largest charitable foundation in the world, with an endowment of $29 billion. That's 10 times the size of the Rockefeller Foundation and dwarfs the gross domestic product of many third-world countries.
Yesterday, Gates spoke of his charitable work.
I believe that with great wealth comes great responsibility, a responsibility to give back to society and a responsibility to see that those resources are put to work in the best possible way to help those most in need.
Even as Bill Gates shifts his attention to philanthropy, Microsoft faces unprecedented challenges, as the technology focus moves from computer boxes to the Internet, and companies like Google have moved into prominence.
Gates plans to remain Microsoft's chairman and its largest shareholder.