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In a letter Friday to commemorate Microsoft’s 40th birthday, Bill Gates looked to the software giant’s decades ahead.

“What matters most now is what we do next,” the Microsoft co-founder wrote to employees in an email Friday morning in which he touted the company’s work developing voice-activated assistants, live voice translation tools and holographic computing interfaces.

Gates opened his note with a look back at how far the company has come in its four decades.

“Early on, Paul Allen and I set the goal of a computer on every desk and in every home. It was a bold idea and a lot of people thought we were out of our minds to imagine it was possible,” Gates wrote. “It is amazing to think about how far computing has come since then, and we can all be proud of the role Microsoft played in that revolution.”

Gates and Allen co-founded Microsoft in Albuquerque, N.M., on April 4,1975, as a partnership to write programming software for an early “microcomputer” company.

When it became clear that Microsoft’s future was in selling software to a wider universe of personal computer makers, the company relocated to Bellevue, and later to the sprawling Redmond campus it now calls home.
Microsoft grew to dominate the market for the operating systems that power personal computers and, later, office productivity software.

The company in the past two decades has fashioned billion-dollar businesses out of server software, database management systems, developer tools and game consoles.

“Part of what was telling about Microsoft is their willingness to take the long view, and to fund it,” said Merv Adrian, an analyst with researcher Gartner who has been following the company for decades. “It takes time.”
In his letter on Friday, Gates shared his optimism about the growing role of computers in people’s lives, as well as his belief in Chief Executive Satya Nadella’s leadership.

Gates, who stepped away from his day-to-day role at Microsoft in 2008 to focus on his philanthropic work, has ramped up his involvement in the company since Nadella replaced Steve Ballmer.

As a Microsoft board member, Gates advises the company on technology issues, spending about 30 percent of his time on company matters, he has said.

“In my role as technical advisor to Satya, I get to join product reviews and am impressed by the vision and talent I see,” Gates wrote.

At the end of 1979, the year Microsoft set up shop in Washington, the company boasted sales of about $2 million and 28 employees.

In its most recent fiscal year, Microsoft pulled in $86 billion in revenue, and at the end of 2014 employed 122,935 people. The company’s footprint in Washington alone totals more than 41,000 people, in addition to tens of thousands of contractors.

The text of the letter in a tweet: