Bill Gates wouldn't object to Xbox business spinoff

[UPDATE] If Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella wanted to spin off the Xbox business, Gates would be "absolutely" for it, he says; Microsoft issues a statement on his comments.

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[UPDATE] Following the publication of this story, Microsoft corporate vice president of communications, Frank Shaw, issued a statement to GameSpot about Gates' comments.

"Mr. Gates' comments today were reflective of his support of Satya as CEO. As Mr. Gates noted, Microsoft is committed to gaming across multiple platforms with Xbox as the centerpiece of our gaming strategy. We remain committed to Xbox and the millions of Xbox fans around the world."

The original story is below.

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Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, who is a member of the company's board of directors, has said that he would support the spinoff of the Xbox business unit if such an idea is ever officially proposed.

Gates told FOX Business Network reporter Liz Claman that if Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella wanted to spin off the Xbox business unit, he would "absolutely" support it.

Microsoft has never said it has any plans to sell off its Xbox business unit, but major shareholders--including Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen's investment group--have urged the company to spin off the game unit and instead focus on corporate customers.

However, Gates said he doesn't think the Xbox business is likely to transition to a standalone company because it is tied to Microsoft's long-term strategy. Gates also pointed out that Microsoft is beginning to bring PC gaming and console gaming "a lot closer together" with the arrival of the Xbox One.

Spinning off a business unit is a way for companies to streamline their business and it doesn't necessarily mean selling to another firm altogether. One popular example of such a move came in 2011, when travel site Expedia (which actually started inside Microsoft and then was spun off) announced it was splitting into two companies: Expedia and Tripadvisor.

Xbox co-creator Ed Fries said last month that Microsoft would be foolish to sell off the Xbox brand. "It's the biggest, most successful new brand they have created in the last 15 years. They should learn from the success of Xbox and create more things like it, not sell it off," Fries said at the time.

According to Head of Xbox Phil Spencer, Microsoft is unlikely to sell or spinoff the Xbox business unit. In late March, he said support for the Xbox business is strong across the company "from the top of Microsoft to the Xbox teams." He also maintains that Nadella is a "good supporter" of the Xbox brand.

Prior to Nadella's appointment to Microsoft CEO earlier this year, it was reported that if Nokia CEO Stephen Elop got the top job at Microsoft, he would have considered selling off the Xbox brand. Elop is now in charge of the Xbox business going forward.

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