Windows 7 is the first Microsoft OS developed away from the watchful eye of Bill Gates, and the technical leaders who built it had to adjust to life at the company without its cofounder and former chief software architect, CEO Steve Ballmer said on Thursday.
"We have a lot of people who are stepping up and growing in new ways," Ballmer said, speaking at the McGraw-Hill 2009 Media Summit in New York. "There's no question about that. I'm growing in some new ways. Some of the senior technical guys are growing in new ways. "
Windows 7, which is expected to be out later this year, is a product of some of the changes that have taken place since Gates left, and Microsoft is proud of the result, he said in an on-stage interview conducted by BusinessWeek Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler.
"It's a great piece of work," Ballmer said. "And it's a piece of work that was driven by a team ... independent of Bill and his leadership. And I think we're all, you know, feeling pretty good about it. We've got to finish it. But I think it'll be a big, big deal."
Indeed, Windows 7, a beta release of which is available, has already received positive reviews from early users. Its predecessor, Windows Vista, took more than five years for Microsoft to develop and was received poorly by many businesses and consumers.
Without saying so explicitly, Ballmer hinted that he and colleagues were limited in their ability to make certain technical decisions at Microsoft while Gates was there. Gates left his day-to-day duties at Microsoft last July to work full time with the philanthropic organization he formed with his wife,The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie and Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie share Gates' former responsibilities.