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Friday, June 16, 2006 - Page updated at 09:25 AM

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Steve Ballmer: The company's driving passion

Seattle Times technology reporter

Steve Ballmer took over the reins of Microsoft to assume full responsibility as chief executive officer in January 2000, the same time Bill Gates made the transition to become chief software architect.

The colorful, outspoken Ballmer, 50, started at the company in 1980 when Gates hired him as the first business manager. Since then, his spirited leadership and intense passion have become a trademark of the company.

"Every day for the last 26 years, it has been my privilege to work shoulder to shoulder with such a visionary," Ballmer said during the news conference Thursday where it was announced that Gates would leave Microsoft in two years to work at his foundation. "Bill Gates, my friend, is now headed, in my opinion, to be the greatest philanthropist of all time."

During Ballmer's tenure at Microsoft, he has headed several divisions, including operations, operating-systems development, and sales and support.

In July 1998, he was promoted to president, a role that gave him daily responsibility for running Microsoft. Together, Gates and Ballmer guided the company as it faced antitrust lawsuits and competition from Linux, Google and others.

Ballmer was born in March 1956 and grew up near Detroit. He graduated from Harvard University, where he met Gates, with a bachelor's degree in mathematics and economics.

After college, he worked for two years at Procter & Gamble as an assistant product manager, and before joining Microsoft, attended Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or tduryee@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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