Bill Gates has announced today that he plans to stand down from his position at Microsoft, and instead focus full time on his secondary interest – The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (new window).

Bill Gates

He currently works full time at Microsoft and part time for the foundation, but as of July 2008, he plans to swap these priorities around, and remain Chairman of Microsoft and a Senior Technical Advisor.

With all the bad things said about him, he actually gives a great deal of money to good causes, and the foundation has single handedly brought about numerous important developments in cures for disease and ending poverty. He announced a number of years ago that he plans to give back all the money he has earned, before he dies – somewhat like uber-richdude of the day, Andrew Carnegie.

The foundation is run by Bill and his wife, and stands on two main principles:

1. All lives—no matter where they are being led—have equal value.

2. To whom much has been given, much is expected.

He said in his announcement today “I believe that with great wealth comes great responsibility, a responsibility to give back to society, a responsibility to see that those resources are put to work in the best possible way to help those most in need,”.

More can be read about the foundation and it’s values here (new window).

Personally, i think it will be interesting to see the changes this brings for Microsoft. Ray Ozzie and Craig Mundie will both have stepped up roles, but the changes may be harder to notice until he’s out of the building. Whether this has anything to do with Microsoft losing it’s Emporer-like status in the software industry, or whether he’s decided that enough money is enough…and now he should spend the 2nd half of his life spending what he’s spent the 1st half earning.

Hopefully this change will help the UN inact the Millenium Development Goals (new window) with increased support from large scale donors, and bring the end to extreme poverty around the world.

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