Remarks by Steve Ballmer, Chief Executive Officer
May 23, 2011
STEVE BALLMER: Thanks. It is a great honor and privilege for me to have a chance to be here with you today. It’s been 18 months since my last trip in Japan, which in my whole 30 years of working for Microsoft is the longest period of time between visits in Japan. So, I’m very glad to be here.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (right) and Akihiro Oba, Developer & Platform Evangelism Lead of Microsoft Japan, at the Microsoft Developer Forum in Tokyo on May 23, 2011.
I know, certainly, there’s been some tough times, and big problems in society with the earthquake, and the tsunami, and I want to make sure everybody realizes you have my deepest sympathy, and Microsoft’s deepest sympathy. Our company remains entirely dedicated to helping in any way that we can, starting with 3,000 PCs that we gave to rescue workers working in the northeast of Japan, and donations. I’m actually involved, we’re running a fundraiser, the Microsoft Table Tennis Association is running a fundraiser for the victims of the disasters here in Japan, and I’ll be participating. So, anything we can do to help.
Microsoft is very committed to Japan. We’re celebrating 25 years this year, 25 years of Microsoft business in Japan. And to all of the developers in the room, I say thank you very much for the support, and for the partnership. It has been extremely important. Japan is the second-largest Microsoft subsidiary in the world, and the combination of great support in the market, and our longevity in really investing in Japan has really helped to make that possible.
I think that no matter where you look in society, whether it’s the reconstruction efforts in Japan, or simply what we see going around around the world, hope rests in innovation and in progress. Innovation, driving forward, new applications, new scenarios, new uses of information technology to transform society. I think it’s incredibly important, whether we’re worried about natural disasters, communication and collaboration, the environment, energy, these problems all lend themselves increasingly to using computer techniques to help enhance the outcomes and the speed of scientific exploration and improvement, and for all of us who work in the information technology field, there’s really never been a better time to make a difference than today.
For students, we have some students in the room who are graduating, and coming out of university, there has never been a more exciting time to help transform, and create new technologies in the information technology arena than we have right here today.
So, I want to talk a little bit about that, but I want to wrap this section ensuring that all of you, as the keys to progress and innovation, the development community here in Japan, know that we’re behind you. We’ll support you in any way. We’ll have a chance to talk a little bit, take some questions. But certainly SteveB@Microsoft.com is interested in hearing from you with great ideas, and great suggestions. I would love to have a chance to be part of connecting with you in whatever way is possible.
There is so much in the way of exciting innovations to look forward to over the next few years. At Microsoft, we’ve identified five things that we think will transform the industry over the next few years, and five areas where Microsoft, as a company, is committed to investing and innovating and leading. We think there will be other companies working in these areas. There are going to be opportunities for developers. Certainly we’re going to see a lot of competition. But these five key technology areas are the ones that I think more than anything else will make people look back and say, wow, computing is fundamentally simpler and easier to use, whether it’s on my phone, my PC, or my TV, than ever before.
The first one I’ll highlight for you is natural user interface. This is the notion that we really want to speak, wave and gesture, touch and mark on our computing devices. We want smart devices to work the way we work, to recognize us and our actions. Speech recognition, vision, handwriting recognition, touch interfaces, these are all part of the theme. And certainly whether it’s in phones, or what we’ve done with Kinect for large room, and living room type environments, for vision, and visual recognition are all emblems of the move in this direction.
You saw in the little video that we had a chance to show before I came on stage some of the additional ideas and concepts for how things are evolving. I look out in the audience today, and I know there is still room for a lot of innovation. Some of you are typing on your laptops, bravo. Some of you are typing on your slates. We have some work to do. And most of you are actually still making notes with pencil and paper. And that’s because we haven’t yet evolved these user interfaces to be natural enough to work in every setting, and in every way.
The second big area of innovation will come in natural language. And the distinction is important. With natural user interface, we’re talking about voice, and vision, and touch. With natural language, we’re really asking ourselves the question, can we let you control your computing environment by expressing intent instead of specific commands. Today on a PC, it’s file open, blah, blah, blah, respond, reply, forward. I can’t just say to my device, get me ready for my trip to Tokyo.
Even though my computer or my phone, it understands when I’m going, who I’m seeing. It has access to websites. Today’s computing systems don’t have a semantic understanding of the world’s information, and they don’t understand the user and their intent very well. With natural language, whether it’s in English, or Japanese, or any one of a number of other languages, you should be able to command the computer with your intent, and have it take action.
Search engines are, in fact, a primitive form of this. We don’t learn special commands to use Bing or Google. You simply type, and the computer tries, or the phone tries to give you back some links that may be relevant. We need to take that idea and extend it to the next level. Show me a chart of GDP versus unemployment for ten countries. We ought to make it so that the search engines, and the user interface of the device can take actions on our behalf. My computer knows where I am, and what I do, my phone does. It should learn about me and propose appropriate action. So, this notion of natural language will be a breakthrough in which we are investing.
I get asked a lot, why do you lose money? Why are you so serious about Bing? It’s because Bing is not just a search engine. It’s key to opening up the world of natural language.
No. 4 is chip and form factors. Just think back three or four years ago and how quickly performance and size, and miniaturization and the move to ARM processors has happened. We’ve announced with Windows that we’re going to support system-on-a-chip architectures, not only from Intel and AMD, but also from a set of ARM vendors.
The form factor of the devices that we all use will continue to change. I think there will be a day in the future where it will be hard to distinguish a phone from a slate, from a PC. You literally will have displays that become paper thin and very easy to fold out form your phone. And at the same time, you’re going to get more and more PC-like capabilities in smaller form factor devices.
Last, but certainly not least is the cloud. And with both Azure, Windows Azure and SQL Azure, as well as Office 365, we’ve made a major step into the cloud. I’m sure I’ll get a few questions about Skype. Skype is just another representation of what we think is the importance of enabling a broad range of scenarios in the cloud. If those are the technologies, the flipside is to ask what can we do with them? They’re all great, but what will we, Microsoft, do and what do we expect the developers that we work with here in Japan, and across the world to do?
The truth of the matter is, it’s a broad range of things. At Microsoft we start by saying, how do we give developers and information technology professionals the tools to automate, and to operate programs? The way this works in the future is going to be quite different.
Today you write a program and as you’re writing it you have to say, what computing resources does it use, how much of it runs on a client device? How much of it runs in the server? How is my server going to get set up and provisioned? How is my application going to get deployed? How do I deploy it in a redundant fashion, to have good business continuity, in the event of the kind of natural disaster that we saw here in Japan? As we are rebuilding Visual Studio, .NET, Windows Azure, we essentially are designing around the automation of program development and deployment, and the operation of those activities.
No. 2, a scenario that I think is interesting is to continue to think about evolution in the way we learn things and consume information. Just this last week we launched a new phase of our partnership with Facebook, where you can bring the best of Bing and the best of Facebook together. So, let’s say you’re trying to decide where to go out to dinner. So, do you do a query perhaps for, I don’t know, a Spanish restaurant? Well, there’s a lot you can learn from the Internet, but what we’re also finding is, there’s a lot you can learn and consume by understanding what your friends think of all the Spanish restaurants that you might query against.
So, we mix and match what your friends think with what we know about the world. It’s something that we call Binging Together, or Social Search, made possible by the integration of Bing and Facebook. Analyzing, and taking action, a lot of what we all do as we serve business customers is to build capability for business people to process information, analyze it, manipulate it, and make a decision, make a decision. And so the areas of business intelligence, data warehousing, dealing with much bigger data sets that you might want to process and analyze statistically is an important area of invention.
If you take a look at the kinds of things we’ve done in SQL Server for business intelligence, the work we’re doing in Excel and SharePoint to unleash that information, the tools that we’re building in Visual Studio so that you can literally take very large data sets and process them in real time, something we do a lot in Bing, in order to statistically model what’s going on in the world from very large data sets. There’s a lot of very interesting applications and platforms that we’ll build and we expect to build in conjunction with the developers in this room.
One of the Windows Azure projects I’m most excited about, we actually did with the universities in the U.S., and it collects oceanographic information from listening posts around the world and then puts the information into very large cloud-based data stores, where developers can write information that processes it and tries to model what’s going to happen next for geological activity and oceanographic activity around the world, certainly a very important topic.
Creating and collaborating on information is a big area of investment for us. You see that in what we’ve done in SharePoint. You’ll also increasingly see it in new directions that we take Microsoft Office. When we originally built Microsoft Office, it was about creating essentially in the virtual world material that was going to be consumed in paper format. More and more of what we consume today, and therefore what we want to create today, needs to be created for the screen, for the phone, for the slate, for the tablet, for the PC. And one of the areas of investment for us is giving us tools that let you author, as an end user, not even as a developer, content that can float amongst those, whether you’re trying to do a school report, or whether you’re trying to create a professional piece of media.
Enjoy and socialize, certainly one of the key things that we’ve tried to do with Xbox, in our gaming environment, and TV, and you’ll see that as we introduce kind of the next evolution of the Xbox development platform alter this year, is to create a platform on which it’s very easy to create games and other kinds of social media experiences. One of the innovations in Xbox LIVE originally was to make it very easy to connect people together in their social lives, and we’ll push forward on that, and open it up to developers. And last, but certainly not least is communication.
Technology, information technology, the most fundamental thing we do is help people communicate, which is why we continue to drive forward with products like Outlook and Lync, and also, frankly, why we made the decision to acquire Skype. Skype is the most popular software on the planet for people who want to do real-time video connection, in addition to being very important, in helping people do voice and other real time communication. And we want to connect that up from business to consumer, to all parts of the planet, and continue to transform the future of communication.
Another big sort of effort for us in terms of transforming the future of communication is the Windows Phone. We came to market with Windows Phone about a year later than I wish we had, shame on us. But, we’re moving forward very actively. We launched Windows Phones last November. We’ve done a set of upgrades. We have a release that will come to market later this year in Japan. Not only is it a new release that is now much more global, but we’ve added over 500 new features to Windows Phone.
We have a big launch event to talk about the next release of Windows Phone tomorrow. So, that information will be forthcoming, including some of the particulars about who is going to be building Windows Phones, and which carriers will be offering them here in Japan.
But, we’re pushing a different approach to user interface design, an approach in which literally right on the home screen of the Windows Phone, you, our developers, can provide integrated experiences across your own and third-party applications that are alive and vibrant in real-time for our joint customers.
I talked a little bit about the cloud and Windows and SQL Azure. Suffice it to say that Azure is now in a mode, because it’s a cloud service, where literally every few weeks we’re delivering new capabilities to the Azure environment. The announcement, for example, that we did of our joint venture with Toyota to build telematic services on the Windows Azure platform, and literally scale those and deliver those to Toyota car purchasers in 170 countries, is a very good example of the kind of agility, speed, scalability, and tools to build things in the cloud. The Toyota applications will be built using .NET and Visual Studio, and be deployed through the Azure infrastructure in a redundant and geo-cached manner.
Another good example here in Japan of somebody we’ve been working with the cloud is an application called J-Rescue. It helps connect missing people with their family. You can post photos and video, GPS information. It records messages and delivers those automatically, and needed to scale very quickly for the population of folks who were in need here in Japan.
Certainly, one of the things that we’re adding as quickly as we can into Windows Azure is a VM role to give you the ability to take much more of the code you already have running on Windows Servers, and just push it up into the Windows Azure cloud, and you’ll see a whole set of announcements that make it easier and easier, not only to write a modern application that’s been designed for the cloud from the start, which is what we did with Azure initially, but also to allow you to re-purpose, extend, and reuse more of your existing code.
That’s particularly important as many companies are still not entirely comfortable in making the move to the cloud, as we continue to work with you to build applications that work through Hyper-V on virtualized Windows Server, SQL Server, and other systems, we think the world will be a hybrid where you’re going to need to mix and match code that runs in the cloud, that’s been designed from a cloud data point with code that runs in the cloud that you run in a virtual machine mode in the cloud, with code that still runs in your own datacenters. And supporting that hybrid environment is a very important part of our cloud strategy.
We’re obviously hard at work on the next version of Windows. Windows 7 PCs will sell over 350 million units this year. We’ve done a lot in Windows 7 to improve customer satisfaction. We have a brand new user interface. We’ve added touch, and ink, and speech. And yet, as we look forward to the next generation of Windows systems, which will come out next year, there’s a whole lot more coming. As we progress through the year, you ought to expect to hear a lot about Windows 8. Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors.
The browser is an area where we’ve been very active. Internet Explorer 9 is the fastest browser around because of the way that we’ve married it to Windows systems and allow essentially full exploitation of the hardware to have the fastest and most beautiful Web on the planet run on Windows systems.
With that, I want to move to wrap up. The relationship with developers is the most fundamental relationship between Microsoft and its customers. You’re it. You write the programs, the applications that really turn on all of our customers to the power of information technology, whether you’re writing for the phone or the Xbox, the PC, or the tablet, your work is the work of our industry. And our No. 1 goal in life is to support the developers, developers, developers here in Japan and across the world.
We have a bunch of tools, and programs, like our BizSpark program that can support you, but switching you on and letting you do your best work in conjunction with Windows, and Windows Phone, and Xbox, Windows Azure, SQL Azure, and SharePoint, and the rest of Office, that is fundamental to Microsoft, and what we do.
So, I thank you for your support. I thank you for your time, and the chance to be here with you today, and we’ll look forward to the next generation of exciting innovation from Japanese developers around the Microsoft platforms.
With that, I’ll wrap up, and I’ll look forward to your questions, thoughts, and comments. Thank you. (Applause.)