Microsoft co-founder and former CEO Bill Gates has said he would support the spinoff of the Xbox division if current CEO Satya Nadella proposed it, though he implied such a scenario seems unlikely.
The statement came during an interview Fox Business conducted with Gates and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, with several questions posed to the Microsoft co-founder about his current role in the company. While Gates no longer spends the majority of his time at Microsoft, he advises Nadella on product-related issues.
On that front, Gates says he wouldn’t inhibit Nadella’s decision-making process, as some speculated it would be hard for the new CEO to garner authority with Microsoft’s co-founder now spending more time at the company. According to Gates, however, Nadella has done well making decisions his own way.
“He’s off to a great start,” Gates said. “He has used more of my time than was the case before, and I’m enjoying going and giving some advice, but he’s reexamining all the things. He’s already made some really good changes. It’s exciting to have some young blood – new thinking.”
Some of the reexamining Microsoft investors have clamored for includes spinning off the company’s Bing and Xbox divisions. According to Gates, Microsoft is always evaluating its businesses, though Bing is “very fundamental” to the company. Bing could be used in a wide range of Microsoft products, Gates said, and is instrumental to its large-scale data centers. On the Xbox front, however, he was less committal.
When pressed about why Microsoft hasn’t spun the Xbox division off, Gates said it integrates well with PC gaming, though he said the ultimate decision will be up to Nadella.
“Well, we’re taking PC gaming – Windows gaming – and Xbox gaming and bringing those a lot closer together. The power of the PC graphics chip means you can do great games there, so I’m sure Satya and the team will look at that – and it’s up to them. We’re going to have an overall gaming strategy, so it’s not as obvious as you might think.”
Gates was pressed further by the Fox Business host, who asked if he would support a hypothetical Nadella decision to spin the Xbox division off. Gates didn’t mince words, saying simply, “Absolutely.”
While Gates’ comment was likely just support for Nadella’s decision-making authority, it comes after more than a year of investor requests that Microsoft spin off its Bing and Xbox divisions. Microsoft executive Stephen Elop was even widely rumored to consider spinning off both divisions had he been named chief executive instead of Nadella.
Update: Frank X. Shaw, Microsoft's head of communications, has confirmed Gates was simply showing support for Nadella's authority.
Context: Bill’s comments re Xbox reflected support of Satya as CEO. Also said committed to gaming x-plat with Xbox as key to gaming strategy— Frank X. Shaw (@fxshaw) May 5, 2014
2/2 (should have started numbering earlier) :) Microsoft remains committed to Xbox and the millions of Xbox fans around the world.— Frank X. Shaw (@fxshaw) May 5, 2014
Source: Fox Business | Image via Microsoft