Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who now acts as technical advisor, sees Bing technology as fundamental to Microsoft and doesn't think it makes sense to break it off from the company.
With Warren Buffett by his side, Gates answered questions by a second-year University of Chicago Booth School of Business student during an interview streamed live from Omaha, Neb., with FOX Business Network's Liz Claman. The student asked if Microsoft would consider spinning off Bing and the division spearheading Xbox.
Bing technology has been the key to Microsoft learning how to do large-scale data centers, Gates said. Bing lets Microsoft see what's going on across the Internet, so as people are interested in various topics it identifies trends and interests.
"We have done spinoffs," Gates said. "Expedia is a company that got started inside Microsoft, along with Slate magazine. We're thinking about are there pieces that are separable, but our basic research, including the stuff that goes into Bing, I can't see it making sense to break it off."
Gates said Microsoft continues to bridge the gap between PC and Xbox gaming, bringing them a lot closer. "I'm sure Satya and the team will look at that, but it's up to them," he said.
Claman asked if Gates would support CEO Satya Nadella if he wanted to spin off Xbox. "Absolutely," Gates said.
She also asked about when Microsoft’s Surface tablets would become profitable. He said the high-end version, the Surface Pro, has better margins and continues to gain share.
The long-rumored Microsoft Surface Mini may soon emerge. The Mini's accessories on Amazon have an estimated launch date of May 18, and Microsoft sent around Surface-branded press invitations with the tagline "Join us for a small gathering."
CNET cites data from market researchers IHS iSuppli and NPD DisplaySearch suggesting the Surface Mini will have a 7.5-inch display, making it look more like Apple's iPad than the larger Surface Pro.