Yesterday we announced an exciting new chapter in the Microsoft in Health story. Microsoft and GE Healthcare (GEHC) are forming a joint venture – with equal investment from each ‘parent’ – that will offer advanced IT solutions to healthcare organizations.

Microsoft’s vision for health has always been ambitious – ‘Improve health around the world, through software innovation.’ This joint venture represents a doubling down on our commitment to healthcare.

The complementary strengths of Microsoft – platform and ecosystem development – and GE Healthcare – clinical applications and workflow expertise, global sales force and domain knowledge in healthcare – will help us get there faster. Of course, Microsoft will also continue to offer our core technologies to healthcare organizations, working with partners to deliver innovative solutions for health and health management. And we’ll keep investing in HealthVault to support patient engagement and personal health management.

The new company we’re planning to create will combine real-time data analysis with knowledge management tools to build a platform and set of applications that will improve patient care and reduce costs. The healthcare industry is the largest sector of almost every economy. It touches every citizen – and it consistently under-invests in IT.

But healthcare information is getting more and more digital. For better patient care to happen, data needs to move with the patient. Unfortunately, almost all systems are built around an institution rather than a patient, so it's hard to separate the data from the application and make it available within and across organizations.

The new company’s collection of assets, Microsoft Amalga, GEHC Qualibria and the future apps we want to build on those platforms, will give people access to digital data and make it reusable. It's a hard problem that nobody has really solved. So we’re going to work together to build a robust, data-driven platform that enables us and third parties to create the next generation of clinical applications. GEHC is bringing a level of knowledge and capability around building apps – and determining which apps are the right ones to get started with – so that we can make the platform more compelling in the early stages.

Other HSG leaders and I had the opportunity to talk with many of our customers about the announcement. It was great to hear their enthusiasm for the deal -- after we assured them that we’re committed to delivering on our product roadmaps. They totally get the need for differentiated apps to help showcase the value of the platform and understand that healthcare needs to move toward population health management.

So, pending regulatory approval, the new company will launch in 2012 and will be headquartered near the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Wash., with a big presence in Salt Lake City. Our goal is to get the venture off to a fast start with a great set of products, employees, customers and partners.

As the leadership team for this new venture takes its place, I'll move to a role where I advise and make recommendations based on my learnings and experience. I'm committed to making this new company a success, and I’m committed to making the transition as smooth as possible for all involved.

My wife and I recently became “empty nesters” so this is a great moment and a wonderful confluence of events that will let me take a step back – and think about what my next chapter will be.