- As Microsoft's past year was characterized by launches, the next will be defined by a departure.
But even as Bill Gates leaves his full-time executive role, the company will be grappling with some of the biggest competitive challenges in its history, particularly on the Internet.
Here's our annual look at what to watch at the company in 2008.
GATES LEAVING, SORTA: The Microsoft co-founder is slated to end his day-to-day executive duties at the end of June, but he will remain chairman, and he's expected to continue working on selected projects.
Microsoft has been preparing for Gates' full-time shift to philanthropy since 2005, when the plan was announced, and it has already installed executives Craig Mundie and Ray Ozzie to fill his roles in the business, working with Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer.
"I don't think the departure will be too disruptive -- it's not like it's a complete severing of the relationship," said Dwight Davis, an analyst with the Ovum research firm. "But nonetheless, that's going to be a notable milestone in the coming year for Microsoft -- one that will alter the company's profile in a fairly significant way."
ONLINE STRUGGLES: Microsoft tried to gain traction online in the past year, most notably through its $6 billion acquisition...