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Janice Maloney/San Francisco

After 13 years on the job, 39-year-old Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft’s charismatic, multimillionaire chief technology officer and the third most important guy in Redmond, will announce this week his plans to take a sabbatical of undetermined length from his post as head of Microsoft’s $3 billion research department. An internal Microsoft memo said there are no plans to replace him.

Rumors in Silicon Valley and inside Microsoft abound that the sabbatical is the presentable public face that has been put on a very private ousting orchestrated by Microsoft’s president, Steve Ballmer. According to one source, Myhrvold, once hailed as Bill Gates’ favorite geek, has been given the golden boot for putting his outside interests before his job. (Not your usual geek, Myhrvold pursues paleontology, cosmology, zoology, Formula One car racing, gourmet cooking and piloting his $38 million Gulfstream jet.) For the past year, Myhrvold has seemed to be on an unofficial sabbatical, out of the office more than he was in, according to a source inside the company.

Talk of his departure heightened when Ballmer formed an inner circle of executives, the Business Leadership Team, and Myhrvold wasn’t on it. Moreover, his brother Cameron, with whom he founded Dynamical Systems Inc., which Gates bought in 1986, recently left the company.

–By Janice Maloney/San Francisco

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