“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. 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.

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.