SAN FRANCISCO (05/04/2000) - Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft Corp.'s chief technology officer who took a sabbatical last year to pursue other interests, won't be returning to the company full time, Microsoft said today.
Myhrvold will act as a special advisor to Bill Gates on a part-time basis, Microsoft said in a statement issued today.
The news didn't come as a complete surprise to some observers. Gates' decision in January to make himself Microsoft's chief software architect was a strong indication that Myhrvold wouldn't be coming back, said Rob Enderle, a senior analyst with Giga Information Group Inc.
Gates and Myhrvold "were kind of sharing responsibilities, and you can really only have one person in that job," Enderle said.
Still, Myhrvold's decision not to rejoin the company full time comes at a sensitive period. Microsoft faces a possible breakup by the U.S. government for antitrust violations, even while it tries to reposition itself for a world in which the Internet, and not the PC, is becoming the central focus in computing.
Enderle said Microsoft will be better off with Gates at the helm of its software development efforts.
"They get a much higher-level focus on research and development. I think that's why you've seen the R&D budget creep up," Enderle said. "Overall, I think it's good for the company."
A 14-year veteran at the company, Myhrvold announced his plans to take a one-year leave of absence last June. He said at the time that he wanted to pursue other interests, including digging for dinosaur remains. [See "UPDATE 2:
Microsoft CTO Myhrvold on Sabbatical," June 1, 1999.]In the high-level reshuffle that took place at Microsoft in January, Gates handed the reins as chief executive officer to Steve Ballmer, who is also Microsoft's president. Gates remains chairman of Microsoft as well as its chief software architect. [See "Ballmer Made CEO as MS Pursues New Course," Jan 13.]Wall Street, which has pummelled Microsoft's stock price in recent weeks, didn't seem too flustered by the news. Microsoft's shares on the Nasdaq stock market were at $70.06 in mid-afternoon trading, down 50 cents from yesterday.
Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080 or at http://www.microsoft.com/.