Bill Gates made his mark on the technology industry a long time ago. Yet recent years saw competitors like Google and Apple wrest the innovation crown away from Microsoft.
Google developed the Android operating system for mobile devices, got deeper into search-related advertising and invested in next-level products like Google Glass. Apple kept its "i" on music players/online content services, smartphones and tablet computers. Both companies met with financial success and monopolized technology media coverage.
Now Satya Nadella has become the new CEO of Microsoft, and Gates is giving up his board chairmanship to help Nadella out in a new role as technology advisor. It's a chance for Gates to return to his technology roots and help develop new products.
In a video published Tuesday by Microsoft, he said he would be spending more time at the company he helped to build.
"I'll have over a third of my time available to meet with product groups, and it'll be fun to define this next round of products working together," Gates said.
Matt McIlwain, managing director with Seattle's Madrona Venture Group, says this is Gates' opportunity to reassume the "tech visionary" title while maintaining his philanthropic work.
"That chairmanship responsibility, there's a lot of important work to be done, and some people are very passionate and very good at that," McIlwain said. "I don't know if that's the highest and best use of Bill's talents.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is doing "incredible" things by bringing innovation to try and solve important problems in the world, McIlwain said. "But the opportunity that Satya saw in saying, 'Bill, I know your first priority is the Gates Foundation, (but) I would like you to be spending time with me being a visionary, being a technology advisor.' I would imagine Bill is more energized by that role as well."
In the Microsoft video, Gates hinted as to what kinds of products and services he would be working on in that new role.
"The opportunity for Microsoft is greater than ever before," he said, "whether it's taking Office and bringing it to interactive documents, letting you find your information in rich ways, secure your information in rich ways, or even building a new platform - a cloud platform - that connects to all sorts of different devices."
It's the kind of talk that helped make Microsoft and Gates giants in the technology industry.