Steve Ballmer?s unofficial role as number two at Microsoft was confirmed yesterday with his promotion to president of the company.
The move raised questions about exactly what his boss Bill Gates will be doing in the future.
Ballmer, formerly executive vice president of sales and support, has long been recognised as the most senior Microsoft executive after chairman Gates himself.
In a memo to employees announcing the promotion, Gates denied it meant he was pulling back his involvement with the company. ?I?m more enthusiastic about and committed to Microsoft than I?ve ever been,? he said.
While he will focus less on the day to day running of Microsoft, the majority of his time will now be spent with its product groups, and on long term strategy, Gates said.
Ballmer, 42 the same age as Gates at 42, has been responsible for Microsoft?s channel efforts and dealing with its large corporate customers. The bulk of the company's senior executives will now report directly to him, although Nathan Myhrvold, chief technology officer, will continue to report to Gates.
Both Ballmer and Gates denied the timing of this promotion was in any way connected to Microsoft?s current problems, notably its antitrust battle with the Department of Justice.
While there have been questions asked about Microsoft?s aggressive business actions, in the light of this legal action and other issues, Ballmer?s reputation as a tough, hard hitting businessman means it is unlikely to change tack.
Electronics and computer chain the latest high street retailer to fall into difficulties
Incisive Media and Investec Asset Management supported fundraiser crosses Atlantic in 40 days
Alphabet's health sciences division Verily have been messing with AI algorithms
North Korea's cyber attack capabilities are expanding fast - and turning their fire on a wider range of targets