Last week, Mr Bezos announced he will step down as chief executive of the e-commerce giant that he started in his garage nearly three decades ago. He will make way for Andy Jassy, who is currently head of Amazon’s cloud computing business, to take day-to-day control. Billionaire Mr Bezos won’t entirely give up the reins, however, instead assuming the role of executive chairman.
While the news came as a surprise to some, there were signs it may have been on his mind for some time.
Recalling a conversation from 2007, Professor of leadership at the Yale School of Management, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, said Mr Bezos “was very admiring of the Microsoft succession process”.
He noted he had tried and failed to get Mr Bezos to discuss his own succession plans, adding: “I think he didn’t want to tip his hand or suggest there was any kind of internal horse race.”
More than a decade later, it appears Mr Bezos will follow the Microsoft model.
In the third quarter, he will switch – as Mr Gates did – from the day-to-day running to a position of broader strategic leadership.
Amazon is built on Mr Bezos’ ideas and principles, with mechanisms that govern the company known as “Jeff-isms”.
But he is not simply turning his back on the company. After 27 years he is replacing himself with a hand-picked CEO, hired and nurtured.
Like Mr Bezos, Mr Gates was integral to all things Microsoft for decades.
Before stepping down in March 2020, Mr Gates helped launch the computer revolution with the MS-DOS software that was included as part of early IBM computers.
“It’s a great piece of work and it’s a piece of work that was driven by a team independent of Bill and his leadership.
“And I think we’re all, you know, feeling pretty good about it. We’ve got to finish it. But I think it’ll be a big, big deal.”
Windows 7 was the first Microsoft OS developed without Mr Gates, and it went on to be a roaring success.
In just six months, over 100 million copies had been sold worldwide, increasing to over 630 million licenses by July 2012.
As of this year, 16.8 percent of traditional PCs running Windows are running Windows 7.
And Mr Ballmer suggested a change in the working environment may have helped, paving the way for Amazon staff to have a “less intense” workload.
He said: “He was the founder. I might have been the CEO, but he was ‘the Bill’.
“There was no question that if Bill thought something should be done, he actually didn’t give orders much, but if he thought something should be done, you knew life would be intense if you didn’t agree.
“Let me say it that way.”
Mr Ballmer did concede that he and his colleagues would be happy to have Mr Gates back, though.
He added: “We miss Bill.
“I mean, if you gave the average senior technical person at Microsoft a vote, ‘Bill back, Bill not back,’ they’d probably say, ‘Yeah, it’d be great to have Bill back.’
“On the other hand, Bill’s doing something important that everybody values, and I think everybody relishes the opportunity to grow and take more responsibility.”