The end of an era: Gates retires

[ Special report: Microsoft in the post-Gates era ]

When Bill Gates ended his daily role at Microsoft in June, it was a milestone not only in his own career but for the tech industry. Gates did not invent the PC, but he invented the PC industry, providing a software platform on which computers and applications from many companies could interoperate. As a scrappy young entrepreneur in 1981, he struck a deal to provide the operating system for the IBM PC. With IBM's imprimatur, personal computers took center stage in IT. Gates' career reflects the arc that PCs have taken. As Gates steps away from business life, PCs are becoming just one way to connect to the Internet. But even though the classic PC form factor may not be as central to tech as it once was, personal computing software has morphed and found its way into billions of devices of all sizes and shapes. Meanwhile, Gates is still relatively young and has the opportunity to make as much of an impact in philanthropy as he did in technology.