Gates era starts to near finish at Microsoft

After Microsoft Corp. said last week that Bill Gates will step away from a day-to-day role at the company over the next two years, users lauded his contributions to Microsoft and the IT industry. But many said they think the change could be positive for Microsoft as it maneuvers to fend off competition fromGoogle Inc., Linux vendors and other emerging rivals.

For example, Christopher Wanko, a lead systems analyst at Schering-Plough Kenilworth, N.J., described the transition plan as "absolutely good news" for Microsoft. It comes "at a time when the old school needs to become a hallowed memory, and new ideas and perspectives should come to the fore," Wanko said.

Gates is "a brilliant strategic thinker [who] revolutionized the industry," said John Halamka, CIO at CareGroup Healthcare System and Harvard Medical School in Boston. "However, it's clear that Microsoft has not competed well with market innovations from Google, Linux and the next generation of thin, Web-based applications."

The software vendor "needs to transform itself, and new leaders in day-to-day operations may create opportunities for radical change," he added.

Ann Harten, vice president of global information systems at office furniture maker Haworth Inc. in Holland, Mich., noted that "a new perspective, with Bill's ongoing guidance, might be a refreshing approach" for Microsoft -- particularly if the company's focus shifts to "accurate and usable [product] delivery."

End of an era