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ImageBill Gates, Microsoft

This was surely the biggest farewell of 2008. The exit of Bill Gates marked an end of era. Gates retired from Microsoft, the company he co-founded with college-friend Paul Allen in 1975.

In June, Gates quit as full-time chairman and software architect of the world's largest software company to work full-time at his charitable organisation Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates will remain the company's non-executive chairman.

A Harvard College drop out, Gates has been a permanent fixture in the Forbes Richest people list, holding the numero uno slot for 15 years in a row between 1993 and 2007. In 2008, Gates was topped by investor Warren Buffett and Mexico's telecom tycoon Carlos Slim in the world's wealthiest list.

Bill Gates' key creation is Microsoft, a company with sales of $51 billion as of June 2007 with 78,000 employees across 105 countries. Almost 90 per cent of the estimated 1 billion computers (desktop and laptop) in the world run on Microsoft's Windows and Office. The company has products across the layers network, operating system, database, middleware, application software.

Gates departure comes at a time when Microsoft is engaged in an escalating rivalry with Google and other competitors who are using the internet to chip away at its software dominance.

During his recent visit to India, Gates launched a major initiative for India's public healthcare with a special focus on eradicating polio.