Is it just me or has Bill Gates been leaving Microsoft for rather a long time? In 11 days, Dollar Bill officially steps down from his full-time role of chief software architect at the company he founded, but, despite suggestions that this marks the end of an era, it’s hard to see him ever going away.

Having announced his plan to go as far back as June 2006, Gates has already had more farewell gigs than Frank Sinatra and even when he “steps down” he will do nothing of the sort. His role will be part-time but he will stay on as chairman and he has conceded that he will still have a significant say in the running of the business.

There are several reasons why Gates will continue to be deeply involved in the way Microsoft is run.

One, his current CEO, Steve Ballmer, is an old college buddy and, in public utterances at least, Tweedledum to his Tweedledee.

Two, despite his charitable largesse, Gates remains a major stockholder.

Three, Gates is an icon and a big net positive to the Microsoft brand.

Four, because his ideas about how to run a software company are ingrained in Microsoft culture.

Five, and finally, because he can.

Gates, like Margaret Thatcher when she was deposed, may want to be a back-seat driver and there’s very little to stop him becoming one. Microsoft, like The Eagles when they finally reappeared, won’t change a whit, but the soap opera over the departure won’t do the company any harm.