by Lauren Gibbons Paul

CIO 20/20 Honorees–Innovator’s Profile: William Gates of Microsoft Corp.

Oct 01, 20022 mins

Chairman and Chief Software Architect

Microsoft Corp.

It’s hardly a stretch to call Bill Gates a visionary. Nearly three decades ago, he foresaw that businesses and consumers would want personal computers. He also anticipated that the software running on them was where the profit lay. His dogged pursuit of that vision hasn’t earned him a place on the most-loved executives list. Everyone, including the Justice Department, has lined up to take shots at him and his company.

Love him or not, the extent of his vision is unique. “We realized that software was the key to transforming PCs into powerful tools that everyone could use, wherever they needed them. That vision kept driving us forward,” says Gates, who is 47.

Billg, as colleagues call him, has set his sights on the next 10 years as being the digital decade. “We’ll see handheld devices that have the computing power and connectivity your desktop PC has today, enabling people to work, learn and be entertained wherever they are,” he says.

As the PC industry continues to evolve, so too does Gates. He took observers by surprise two years ago when he stripped himself of the CEO title and became chief software architect. “I’ve learned there are limits to your capabilities. You can’t be everywhere and do everything,” says Gates of his decision to name Steve Ballmer CEO.

This can’t have been an easy move for someone who was used to having a hand in every decision of any significance throughout the 27-year history of Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft. His new role, he says, gives him critical “think” time to ponder where the market will go next.

“We’re halfway to fulfilling the vision we had when we first founded Microsoft, for a personal computer that is totally intuitive and easy to use and that connects us with our professional and personal lives,” Gates says. “There’s still a lot of work to do, but I really believe we’ll achieve the dream in the coming decade.”