NEWSFLASH: Gates steps down as Microsoft CEO

Steve Ballmer has been named CEO of Microsoft, leaving Bill Gates as chairman and taking on the additional role of chief software architect.

"I'm certainly honored and very, very excited about the opportunity," Ballmer said. "It's a challenging time. But the times Microsoft is faced with challenges is the time we do our best work and do the most to revolutionise the industry."

Gates said he wants to spend 100% of his time on developing new technologies, including software to interface with handwriting and speech recognition products.

Addressing reports that government attorneys might seek to break up Microsoft over antitrust allegations, Gates said, "It would be absolutely reckless and irresponsible for anyone to try to break up this company. It would be unprecedented and [the] single greatest disservice that anybody could do to consumers in this country."

Microsoft plans to put out a roadmap in April, for its software strategy over the next three years. The focus will be infusing every piece of Microsoft software with Internet capabilities.

Consumers can expect an update to Windows this year and another next year, Gates said.

Microsoft has posted a statement about Gates stepping down from his CEO post on its corporate Web site.

Local officials were not immediately available for comment.

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