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Tech Industry Reacts To Bill Gates' Exit Plan

When Bill Gates disclosed June 15 that he planned to ease out of day-to-day management at Microsoft over the next two years, it drew gasps of surprise from some people in the computer industry and sighs of relief from others.

"Gates' departure is a double-edged sword," says Cynthia Brumfield, president of Emerging Media Dynamics, an IP TV consultancy. "On the one hand, his guiding vision has been critical to the company's success. On the other hand, Microsoft is clearly in need of a fresh direction, and this might be the symbolic and real catalyst for implementing new ideas."

Nowhere is this truer than in Microsoft's interactive TV division, "which has been limping along for years," Brumfield says, adding that the company has recently taken steps to improve that division.

Martin Hubert, president and CEO of Freightgate, an Internet-based supply chain software provider, says, "The timing is good for Gates to get out with style," before things turn downward for Microsoft, given some of the challenges facing the company. The risk, however, is that not having Gates around as much could become yet another challenge for the company.

There's also the possibility that Gates' absence will present opportunities to others. "It may finally make room for less-traditional thinking and new energy and ideas," Hubert says. "For the industry, it may increase speed if the new Microsoft executives take an innovative approach to some of the bait laid out by the guys at Google."

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