Should Gates walk away at such a delicate time? He and his successors say now is the "perfect juncture" for his departure, the first stage of which has been "reasonably
seamless." In fact, they say the greatest danger would be Gates remaining Microsoft's Chief Decision Maker from a distance. In this day and age, being "up to speed" is essential, says Ozzie. "Did you
see the 20 announcements last week that Google did, Yahoo did, Cisco did?" he asks, referring to some of Microsoft's biggest competitors.
Gates points out that the company's future, now challenged by the Google, Yahoo and other big Web services/advertising players, still belongs to software. "Why do you like your iPod, your iPhone, your Xbox 360, your Google Search?" he asks. "It's the software that goes into it."