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Microsoft Signals New Era With Thompson Taking Chairman Role

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(Bloomberg) -- With Microsoft Corp.’s appointment of John Thompson as chairman to replace co-founder Bill Gates, the world’s largest software maker is looking to the veteran technology executive as the main outside voice in its new leadership structure.

Thompson was the lead independent director heading the board’s search for a new chief executive officer, resulting in the appointment of Microsoft insider Satya Nadella to replace Steve Ballmer, the Redmond, Washington-based company said in a statement today. While the naming of Thompson and Nadella, who were already involved in Microsoft’s transition, signal continuity, it’s also the biggest break in the company’s history as the Gates-Ballmer duo who have been in charge for more than three decades step aside.

The former CEO of Symantec Corp., Thompson, 64, is stepping in at a crucial point as Microsoft remakes itself to better compete with rivals including Apple Inc. and Google Inc. In picking Thompson, the board is betting that he’ll be able to use his experience running a security-software company to help turn around Microsoft.

“Thompson’s going to be a major voice for the company,” James Staten, an analyst at Forrester Research, said in an interview. “They wouldn’t have made him chairman, if he didn’t have strong opinions about how to drive the company forward. And Satya is looking for strong partners on the board.”

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