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“It’s the End of an Era”

That’s how one former Microsoft exec described Bill Gates’ plans to leave his full-time job at the company in two years. True, he hasn’t been CEO for several years, but it’s a significant move nonetheless. With the company facing ever more competition from Google and others these days, Gates will be focused elsewhere — on his nonprofit foundation.

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That’s how one former Microsoft exec described Bill Gates’ plans to leave his full-time job at the company in two years. True, he hasn’t been CEO for several years, but it’s a significant move nonetheless. With the company facing ever more competition from Google and others these days, Gates will be focused elsewhere — on his nonprofit foundation. It’s up to CEO Steve Ballmer and chief technical officer Ray Ozzie, who replaces Gates as chief software architect, to adapt to a world where so much software is available for free on the Web.

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I’ll be just as curious to see what this move means for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. After his father opened his eyes to the startling inequities within global health, Gates began using his vast wealth to tackle these and other problems. “Of the $70 billion spent globally on health every year, only 10% is devoted to research on diseases that make up 90% of the total disease burden,” he told the UN a few years ago. The $29 billion foundation is helping accelerate vaccine development to combat malaria, which threatens a third of the world’s population.

By taking a more active roll in the wealthiest foundation on the planet, Gates, who’s just 50, could have a far bigger impact in global health than in business, which is remarkable to consider. Here’s to the beginning of that era.

About the author

Chuck Salter is a senior editor at Fast Company and a longtime award-winning feature writer for the magazine. In addition to his print, online and video stories, he performs live reported narratives at various conferences, and he edited the Fast Company anthologies Breakthrough Leadership, Hacking Hollywood, and #Unplug

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