Microsoft’s Ballmer sees clearly through the cloud

January 20, 2009

Even though the recession is scaling back business expectations, the pace of technological advances isn't slowing down, according to Steve Ballmer, Microsoft president and CEO. “The digital life just gets richer.” Industry innovators are positioned well, in Balmer's view, because the power of ideas and innovation is ultimately more forceful than a sluggish economy.

One key opportunity that Ballmer emphasizes is the convergence of the three screens — PC, phone and television — and the computing cloud. This adds up to a more connected experience for “a single seamless ecosystem of anywhere-anytime computing.”

As for the PC and phone, the mission is still to make computing more available and affordable across the world. Only 1 billion households have a PC — leaving 5 billion more to go. With phones getting smarter, and more than 1 billion of them sold every year, the mobile phone is many people's first computing experience — more so as smart phones dominate an ever-increasing share of the mobile market.

Likewise, the television is getting smarter and more connected. And as they grow more sophisticated, that boundary will dissolve, with wired, mobile and IPTV also dissolving into one interactive entertainment experience.

Ballmer predicts that the PC will be able to hear and see speech, gestures and handwriting, and it will become normal to connect with all three screens' user interfaces; for instance, watching part of a TV show at home and the rest on a netbook or mobile phone while riding the train to work.

Of course, Ballmer believes that beating at the very heart of this brave new media world will be Microsoft Windows. "Windows has become the language that over a billion people speak in every country and every culture around the world," he said, and he laid out a high-level view of where the software giant aims to go with its products in the future.

A video illustrated how this three-screen-plus-cloud life works. From phone to Internet, it lets you bank online, check-in to your plane flight and buy movie tickets. Windows Mobile connects PC to phone so you can use the PC more easily and naturally from the smaller screen, with fewer clicks. Although Ballmer didn't mention it, you could easily add to his list — especially in view of the ATSC-M/H debut at CES — connecting the phone to broadcast digital TV signals to watch live local sports while you chat online with your best friend about the game.

"When I look at the new products that we're bringing to market, and the new technologies that are beginning to mature, I really know that we're on the verge of the kind of technology transformation that only happens once every 10 or 15 years," Ballmer said.

First, Moore's Law is putting more processing power to work for us, in smaller packages and at lower prices. Second, screens and displays "will literally be everywhere." Third, PCs, phones, televisions and other devices, coupled with the Internet, will become a single player for creating more user-friendly experiences. People will expect software to automatically adjust to the capability of the device.

It all adds up to technology that "learns your habits, understands your preferences and predicts your needs," Ballmer said. In short, the technology is acquiring social skills and in the future it really will be all about you.

Watch Ballmer's keynote and demos at


Or go to Or read the speech at

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