Microsoft chairman and CEO Bill Gates announced on Tuesday that he has pointed Steven Ballmer as president of Microsoft. Ballmer was previously serving Microsoft in his role as executive vice president of sales and support. He has been with the company since 1980.

Gates says the promotion is part of a plan to "broaden" Microsoft's leadership, position the company to take advantage of new growth opportunities, and be more responsive to changing customer needs. Gates will now focus more on Microsoft's long-term vision and product strategy.

Gates explained the change to Microsoft employees via a memo that was distributed Tuesday morning.

"The majority of my time will be spent with our product groups, devising the technologies and products of the future," Gates wrote in the memo. "We can all be incredibly proud of what we've built so far. But the future opportunities will far surpass everything we've achieved to date. I'm more enthusiastic about and committed to Microsoft than I've ever been."

Ballmer was equally enthusiastic about the change.

"I am extremely excited about my new role as president, and look forward to partnering with Bill and our management team in the leadership of the company I love," Ballmer said. "It will be important to build on the work of Bob Herbold, our executive vice president and chief operating officer, who has done a great job of streamlining Microsoft's day-to-day operations, a role he will continue to play. My aim is to delight customers, and to make our existing and future products an even greater success in the marketplace. In this I will be helped by Jeff Raikes, formerly group vice president of sales and marketing, who will now take on an even more central management role as group vice president of sales and support."