Steve Ballmer: “Blacks at Microsoft” Minority Student Day

Remarks by Steve Ballmer, CEO, Microsoft Corporation
Redmond, Washington
February 2, 2007

STEVE BALLMER: Well, thanks. It’s an honor and privilege to have a chance to be here with you today, physically for the folks in the room, virtually for the folks in rooms in other parts of the country. They don’t know because they’re not on the webcast, but there were a bunch of kids who were supposed to be on from Charlotte, North Carolina, and I understand they have an ice storm today in Charlotte. And certainly we’re not used to ice in Seattle, but we’ve had our share this year of closures for that reason, and so we’ll miss our friends in Charlotte, but welcome to everybody else who’s joining us via the webcast.

This is, I don’t know, probably the third or fourth time I’ve had the pleasure to speak at this event, and I’ve got to tell you it’s always fun for me. I get challenged and energized and get a lot of good questions. And I get a little bit of market feedback on how our stuff is doing with kids at the high school age; sometimes we’re better and sometimes we’re worse.

But I thought I’d take just a few minutes and kind of set a little bit the theme for the meeting, and then have a chance to talk a little bit about some of the things we’re doing in the community, and then just open up for questions and comments.

The theme today is “Me @ Microsoft!”, and I guess that sort of implies I ought to tell a little bit about me at Microsoft. I joined Microsoft now 27 years ago. I was 24 years old when I came here, and frankly didn’t know what the heck I was getting into. And if I’m in your shoes, and I’m kind of sitting in the audience here, and I’m wondering where do I go, what am I going to do with my life, what college or what kind of a job, what things are going to look like, you know, you wind up doing things for in some senses some of the most unusual reasons.

I was 24. I was actually a student in business school at the time. And I’d always kind of assumed that I would work for a big, established company. My dad had come to the United States from Europe. He was an immigrant. He had not gone to high school — I’m sorry, he had not gone to college, he didn’t finish high school, or if he did, he never confirmed that for me, so I’m going to assume he never actually finished, and that’s why he didn’t tell me. And he had basically started talking to me from the time I was little, “You’re going to go to college, you’re going to get a degree, you’re going to get a business degree, and you’re going to work for someplace like Ford Motor Company” where he wound up working for many, many years. And I kind of assumed that was what I was going to do.

So, I’m sitting there in my first year at business school, which is a two-year program, and I’m studying away diligently, blah, blah, blah, and I get a phone call, a phone call from an old buddy of mine from college, Bill Gates.

And Microsoft was not much of a company back in 1980. There were maybe 20 or 30 guys in the company, and it was a little bit wild. Everybody who worked for the company basically was around 22, 23 years old. They’d almost gotten kicked out of their building here in Bellevue because some of the guys slept in the building overnight, and would go into the bathroom and kind of wipe off, shower off, whatever in the bathrooms, and that wasn’t considered really professional in these office buildings. But the guys were working hard, staying up all night, trying hard to do something with this thing called software on these new microprocessors.

I get this call from Bill and he said — and I had visited him once up here when I was on a vacation. Bill said, “Hey, Steve, hey, why don’t you just kind of — you know, what are you doing this summer?” And I said, “Well, I’ve got to get a summer job; that’s what you do at school.” He says, “Hey, why don’t you come up here, but why don’t you just stay? Come on up and stay.” And I said, “What do you mean stay? What do you mean?” He said, “You know, drop out of school, stay.” And I said, “Are you serious, drop out of school?”

Now, going home and telling my dad I was going to drop out of school was not an easy thing to think about for me. My dad would have thought that was nutty. He had done that; I wasn’t supposed to do that. But I talked to Bill a while longer, and Bill was the smartest guy I had ever known. And I said, well, you know, I didn’t know what software was really. I’d written a couple programs in high school and college, and so I come up here, and I stayed. And here I am 27 years later, and I’m basically doing the same job all 27 years. Now, it’s a little different, we were 30 people then, and we’re 75,000 people now, and things are different.

But the thing that really I found work for me was I started right away working with people who I thought were fantastic people. And everybody’s got their own assessment, how much you like them, how much you feed off their energy, how smart they are. There’s a lot of reasons why you might want to be with people. But I was working with people I really wanted to work with, and I was able to get passionate and excited about what we were doing.

I’d been here about a month, and I thought I was going to quit. I went to see Bill, and I said, “Yeah, maybe I should just go back to business school,” because I felt like, what was I doing? After I’d been here a month, I had no office — in fact, I had no desk; in fact, I had no chair. Bill said, “You can use this, the right side of the couch in my office, that’s your office.” And that didn’t kind of feel real good to me. And the company, you know, I was sort of like keeping track of the books and making sure people got paid. And I said, “Why did I drop out of business school again? What was this all about?”

And Bill said to me, before I decided to go back, he got his dad and they took me out to dinner. And whenever Bill brought his dad, that was kind of a big deal. Bill’s dad is six feet seven, a bit intimidating, frankly. And I said, uh-oh, I’m going to get the heavy sell. And over dinner Bill said something to me, and that’s the thing that sort of lit my passion. He said to me, “If you’re going to go back to school you don’t get it. We have an opportunity to work to put a computer on every desk and in every home.” And I was able to get excited about that. And it’s 27 years later, and I’m still excited about what we do and how we get a chance to work on stuff that changes the world.

Now it’s sometimes even hard for me to describe. I’ve got a 9th grader, and the notion that there is a world without computers, and yet nobody had computers when I was a kid, and yet that’s a foreign notion. Heck, 10 years ago, most people didn’t even have cell phones, as crazy as that might seem now. Videogame consoles, the Internet, Web, search, none of that stuff really was anywhere just 10 years ago.

And so I get a chance to work, and people at Microsoft get a chance to work really on things that change the world in some pretty fundamental ways, and I think that’s pretty important and a real opportunity.

What’s the point of that? I’m talking about me at Microsoft, you’re going to hear other people talk about them at Microsoft. I think you’ll find a couple of things that bring us together, and a couple of things that are probably good principles.

Work with people you enjoy working with, and find something that just really you can get fired up about, really want to get after. And whether that’s technology or using technology for something else, or you can get really fired up about whatever you do, and find that thing; that’s the most important thing I think for kids to try to figure out in high school, right after high school is to really get a sense of what psychs you up.

Now, for folks who are on this webcast or here, you’re all in areas where Microsoft has a lot of people, we’d love to have you. If you want to get fired up about the kind of stuff that we do, whether it’s legal or marketing or finance or programming or whatever the case may be, we want really energetic, excited folks working for us.

I spoke — I think it was four years ago when I spoke to this group. I give out my e-mail address, I’m Steveb, by the way, if you have other things you want to talk about that we don’t get to today. I still have an e-mail correspondence from a kid who was one of the folks who won an award from us a few years back who was a student at Roosevelt High School here in Seattle. So, it’s just exciting to have a chance for me also to interact with folks like you.

This is a unique time for us because we’ve got a lot of new products coming. We have our new Windows Vista product that we just brought to market, our new Office product. We’ve got Zune — yeah, that’s okay, I like that, that works for me. (Applause.) We’ve got our Zune product in the market. You know, those guys at Apple, they’re pretty good competitors, so we’ve got to see what we can do for entertainment players. Xbox 360 — anybody in this room own or use Xbox 360, just a small show of hands? Have we got any Gears of War — Xbox or Xbox 360, I’ll take either one. Any Gears of War folks, any people who like Gears of War? Okay. That’s interesting. Usually you don’t see any girls’ hands go up, and we were consistent with that. We still have a product in Xbox, we’re pretty excited about, but we’re trying to get it so it’s interesting not just to kind of boys and men, so to speak, good feedback for me. We’ve got new phones coming out with our software in it, just a lot of stuff going on that we’re real charged up about.

And I think probably the best thing, rather than just have me prattle on, would be to have us have a chance to demonstrate some of the kinds of stuff that we’re doing that we’re excited about, so I’m going to invite on stage with me Justin, who’s going to take us through a demonstration of some of the stuff that we’ve just launched and have coming to market. Please welcome Justin. (Applause.)

JUSTIN: Thanks, Steve.

Okay. Well, so we’re going to take a quick tour, and I’m going to take you guys through some of the really fun, exciting Microsoft technologies that are coming out this year. And we’re going to start with something called Windows Live Search. So, Live Search is a way to search for information on the Internet. You can also search for directions, you can search for maps, figure out how to get to the places you want to go to.

Now, the Super Bowl is on Sunday. Is anyone going to watch the Super Bowl? (Applause.) All right.

STEVE BALLMER: In the room, how many Colts fans, let me just do a check, Colts fans? (Cheers, applause.) Bears fans? (Cheers, applause.) Bears have it in Seattle, all right.

JUSTIN: Bears have got it.

Okay, has anyone here ever been to Dolphin Stadium where they’re playing the Super Bowl down in Miami? All right, two people. I’ve never been to Dolphin Stadium, and I really can’t think of a reason to go there right now. But the thing about Windows Live Search is we use 3D Virtual Earth technology that actually gives me a live, three-dimensional map of the place I’m looking for. And I’m going to show you guys Dolphin Stadium in Miami, you can see it here, and I’m going to do that with an Xbox 360 controller. I can plug in an Xbox 360 controller into any PC running Windows Vista to play my games, and I’ll also use it to navigate this virtual map of Miami.

So, here I can zoom on in, and there you see the stadium, which is pretty cool. But I can actually back on down, and fly around it. I can go all the way down to the parking lot level, and it’s an almost perfect image of the stadium. So that’s pretty cool.

It’s also cool that I can actually go up, and if I wanted to go down and see what it’s like right there on the 50-yard line, see what they’re going to see at the coin toss, I can do that and take a look around.

And then when I’m done, I just go look back down, I can zoom out, and there’s the stadium, there’s Miami, there’s southern Florida, and there’s the world. (Applause.)

So, that’s Windows Live Search. It’s a great way to get directions, figure out how to get someplace. It’s also a great way to explore places you’ve never been; super, super cool.

Now, you may have heard we just launched a new version of Windows called Windows Vista. This is Windows Vista right here. And one of the things we’ve noticed people doing on their PCs is personalizing and customizing their desktop background with pictures. You guys do that, a bunch of people here do that? I’m sure everyone here has pictures on their desktop background.

But what if I could actually take that to the next level, and I could do that with full motion video, have video running in the background on my desktop? Well, with DreamScene in Windows Vista I can actually do that, full motion video, running in the background as I’m going about and using my PC. And I can also do this with any video on my PC. So if I have a recorded TV show, a movie, or a home video, I can set that as my desktop background. It’s a great way and a great example of how Windows Vista lets you personalize your PC.

Now, how many folks here listen to music? Everybody listens to music. All right, music on the PC, do you guys listen to music on the PC? Okay. Well, one of the most exciting things to happen to music in the last couple of years is Zune. There we go. There’s Zune.

So, this is the Zune Marketplace. It’s an online store, and it’s a place where I can go and I can download music and discover new artists.

Now, one of the things I love about Zune Marketplace is for around 15 bucks a month, about the price of one CD, I can subscribe to unlimited downloads, so I can get all the music I could eat, all the music I could play. And if I search here, you guys can see, it will go out and it will actually bring up any artist I’m looking for. If I’m looking for Miles Davis, it will bring up all his albums, hundreds of albums. If I click on that, there are all the albums. All I have to do is go here, click download the album, and it will queue those up, put them on my PC.

Now, once I’ve gotten all the music I want, I’ve downloaded it all, put it on my PC, then I can synch it to my Zune player. So, this is a Zune player right here. And Zune is a great music player. Here I have some of the Miles Davis tracks that you just saw me download. I can queue it up, I can play it. It gives me information about the song that’s playing. It shows me album art. I can put over 7,500 songs on a Zune.

But Zune does more than music. I can actually also go and do video as well. So, with a Zune I can put 100 hours of video, and take it with me in my pocket. And you see when I hit play it automatically switches the screen horizontal to give me the best viewing angle. So, 100 hours of music is like 15 movies to go with me wherever I want to take them.

And just like I just showed you with motion desktop in DreamScene, with Zune I can synch all my photos to my Zune player, and if I find one I like, I can actually automatically set that as a background to the player and personalize that. So just like that, I change the background, and personalize my Zune.

So, one of the things that Zune does that no other player out there can do is Zune makes it easy to share all of my music. So that song I just played by Miles Davis, if I want to share that with my friends or my family, I can actually send that to them wirelessly. So, I can go ahead here, I go to send it. It’s going to look for Zune devices nearby. It just found this one right here. I can say I want to send it. It will ask me if I want to accept it. You bet I do. And it’s actually sending that entire album over to my Zune. Let me switch the sound here. It might take a little while, because I actually sent the entire album, not just that song. Okay. And in a second we’ll come back to that, and you’ll actually see that right there on my Zune player.

Now, if I want to take my music, I’ve got it on my PC, I transfer it to my Zune. Let’s say I want to go ahead and actually play it on my Xbox 360. I can actually take my Zune, and plug it right into my Xbox 360. And why don’t we take a look and see if we went ahead and transferred that over. Go to the inbox; there we go, that’s the album I just sent, that’s the song I just played on this Zune, and I sent it over wirelessly to the other Zune, just like that. Awesome.

So, we talked about Xbox 360. And if I want to play all this music on a TV or a home stereo, I can just plug my Zune into my Xbox 360, the Xbox will recognize it. And if I go here to music, there’s my Zune, navigate down, find that Miles Davis song, and play it.

So, Zune lets me download all the music I want to my PC. I could transfer it to a Zune device, take it around with me, send it to my friends. I can play it in any room in my house with an Xbox 360. It’s pretty killer.

So, if I have this Xbox connected to a broadband connection, I can actually also go and I can download movies or TV shows. So, I go here to the Video Marketplace, and here we have movies. I could go to trailers, check out trailers. I can download full movies. I could download high-def movies as well. I can get TV shows from people like MTV, from Comedy Central, NBC. And I can also get game videos.

So, are any of you guys familiar with Halo? Any of you guys play Halo? A couple people out there play Halo. All right. Well, in the next year or so we’re going to release a new version of Halo, Halo 3. And I thought we’d end this morning with giving you guys a little glimpse of what Halo is going to look like.

(Video segment.)

(Cheers, applause.)

JUSTIN: That’s it for me. Thank you, guys. Have fun today. (Applause.)

STEVE BALLMER: Saving the Halo 3 trailer for the end always works. It’s fantastic.

The other thing we get a chance to do, we’re a big company, we’re a company that has had a chance to build a lot of success for our employees, for our business partners. What we find is frankly just because of the way PCs work, for every PC that gets sold, it’s nice that Microsoft makes some money on Windows, but frankly the jobs that get created, that people take those technologies and use them is very powerful.

But because of all the success we’ve had, we also think we have a unique opportunity and a unique responsibility to try to then say how do we give back to the community in a way that’s going to not only help the community, but at the same time how do we give back to the community in a way that’s going to continue to help more people get involved with technology over time. It’s good for our company, it’s good for our shareholders, it’s good for the community.

And so we’ve done a lot of work. We’ve got a major program that we call our Unlimited Potential program where we’re trying to teach technology skills in partnership with particularly community centers around the world really.

We have high school internships. We have about 40 kids a year intern at Microsoft, which we think is great. We’ve done a number of college scholarships, particularly focused at women and minority students in an effort to promote broader diversity in particularly the technical workforce. If you look at the workforce of folks, particularly in engineering, it tends to be not very diverse, and we need to capture people early on in life, in high school even, and get women and people of color really interested and excited in math and technology as a field. We think that’s particularly important, great for us and great for society.

I’m particularly excited about a thing we’ve been involved in called DigiGirls, which is a high-tech camp for young women that we’ve participated now for seven years helping to get more and more girls and women interested earlier in technology. And it’s just an example of some of the kinds of things we do.

They all have a business purpose. Everything we do is designed to try to promote the spread of technology. But when we talk about our mission as a company, we talk about helping people and businesses throughout the world realize their potential. And that means all people, all people realize their potential, whether it’s a technologist or user of technology, whether it’s rich people or poor people, whether it’s people in the United States or in less affluent countries, whether it’s white people or people of color, whether it’s men or women; we think it is very important that this broad empowerment and enablement that technology brings really be enjoyed by the broadest part of the population.

As part of that effort to give back to the community, we’ve had a fantastic partnership, relationship with the National Urban League now for a number of years. It’s one of the oldest and largest community-based movements in the United States, and really is helping to drive issues that are important socially and economically in an opportunity sense for African-Americans.

Today, we’re fortunate. We’ve got the president of the National Urban League, Marc Morial, with us. Marc is going to come on up on stage, if he would. Let’s welcome Marc. (Applause.)

We’re announcing today the next step in our partnership with the National Urban League. We’re making a grant, Microsoft is, of $5 million to the National Urban League over the next three years. (Applause.)

Marc, why don’t you take — Marc, also two things of note. Marc was the mayor of New Orleans, a very difficult job in some difficult times. I think we can thank Marc for that. (Applause.) And Marc also brought the Hornets to New Orleans, which is what he and I were talking about backstage. The stage is yours, Marc.

MARC MORIAL (President, National Urban League): Let’s give Steve a big hand. I really — (applause) — you know, these guys — you know, he’s a bad dude. He’s pretty cool, too, right? I think he is. But I am — in listening to you and just reflecting on what you all have built out here in Microsoft, in just a little bit better than 20 years, is truly a great American story. And so we want to congratulate you all, and we want to thank you all for this very generous gift to the National Urban League, which is going to allow us, software, going to allow us to bring technology into communities across the nation. We’re in 102 communities, big and small, all across the nation.

And you know what the bottom line is? If you don’t know how to use a computer well, you ain’t going nowhere. It’s very basic. I mean, it is a tool of necessity. It’s no longer a nicety. It’s an essential tool for our existence.

Now, you know what, I’ve got to get me one of these music things. (Laughter, applause.)

STEVE BALLMER: I think we can help with that.

MARC MORIAL: But you know what I need, I think I need this gentleman to give me another lesson a little bit not as fast on how to make it work. I love Miles Davis, but today I’m feeling James Brown. (Laughter, applause.) Thanks, Steve, my pleasure.

STEVE BALLMER: Thanks, Marc, thank you very much. (Applause.)

An honor and a privilege to have Marc here with us today, and I think the point Marc made that you really should listen to, you know, we hope to stimulate your interest in technology, technology as a career, Microsoft, blah, blah, blah, that’s great. But at the end of the day being able to be fluent with a computer, doesn’t matter where you work, what you do, what you want to do, whether you’re going to be a senior executive, a computer programmer, whether you’re going to have a great job making things, a computer is going to be fundamental to everything you do, it’s going to be the first place in your job where you turn for information. And I think it’s super important, and I think I’m super excited that we had so many young people around the country turn out for this event today.

I think it’s an incredible time to be in the technology business, I have to confess. There’s so much changing. You know, people ask, you know, how do I do things, how do I start companies, dah, da-dah, da-dah. I’ll tell you, knowing something about software and programming is going to be a fantastic way to kind of lead a life and make a living for a long time.

You know, our company wants to hire the best and the brightest, we want to have a very diverse workforce because we want to sell to a very diverse group of people, and we think that really makes sense for us. And certainly the partnership with the National Urban League is part of that, but so are days like this design to really hopefully catch your fancy a little bit, and really get you interested in businesses like ours.

I hope I have a chance to interact with you more. I really am [email protected].

I do have a question for the folks here. This is a local question; sorry, webcast audience. I understand we have some kids here who are in high schools actually in the city of Seattle, and the whole Puget Sound area. But I’m going to an O’dea basketball game tonight. Oh, we’ve got one from O’dea. And then my son’s team plays Rainier Beach tomorrow night. Do we have anyone here from Rainier Beach? Okay. Any votes this year for the Metro 3A championship? I’m curious.

AUDIENCE: (Off mike).

STEVE BALLMER: Look at this, look at this. All right. Well, I’ve got to go tonight. I think my son’s team is going to get killed, but nonetheless we’ll find out what’s going on.

Thank you all very much for your time and attention, been a pleasure. (Applause.)

PARTICIPANT: Steve, we have a few questions for you.

STEVE BALLMER: Oh, that’s right, I forgot all about it, I was so excited.

PARTICIPANT: We’ve got questions.

STEVE BALLMER: Yeah, questions, local.

PARTICIPANT: I’m going to start. I’ll start first from SVC, and then from our satellite offices, and I’ll ask questions from each of those, and then I will ask questions from the floor. So, we’ll take five or six questions from our sites, and then to the rest of the floor.

Our first question is from SVC, and they ask —

STEVE BALLMER: SVC is Silicon Valley Campus, which means basically near San Francisco. Yeah, it’s our shorthand.

PARTICIPANT: And the first question is, what innovations do you see with Xbox in the next six years?

STEVE BALLMER: Xbox in the next six years. Whoa, six years is a lot of time. But I’ll give you two things that I think people are just going to be mind-blown about. Number one, even take a look at that Halo 3 trailer. The degree to which the action is almost realistic, or at least as realistic as you think you would see in a movie, is really quite stunning. And we’ve got to keep that in mind, because you could say, does that enhance games; yes, it enhances games. But it gives you a chance to change almost the whole experience.

I mean, six years from now, what will be the difference between a movie and a videogame? Well, the videogame you get to participate. That’s about the only difference, because these things will be so realistic. And you’ll even have the great movie guys thinking about how do I almost make this movie so it can become interactive in a videogame all at once. So that’s one key thing I’d say.

The other thing is all of the concepts that we have promoted in what we call our Xbox Live where you can get on with your friends and interact, even that is going to get more and more realistic. What can you and your friends do? How do you talk to each other? How do you manage and control? How many people can really be in the scene? That’s one of the tough things in the videogame design business. If you think you’re a really good videogame designer, you have more and more people doing things, because it’s actually a tough computer programming challenge to move all of these little people around all at the same time on the screen. So the degree of interactivity, and the degree of kind of social connection and your ability to really do what you would do in real life with your friends online will just keep going up.

PARTICIPANT: Thank you very much.

Our second question is from [a student at] New Bodega High School, New Jersey. Her question is, was there ever a time that you felt like giving up, and what made you go on?

STEVE BALLMER: Yeah, there was. There have been times I’ve felt like giving up, I guess you could say. You know, there are days when you get very bad news, and you get that personally, but there’s also days you just get very bad news at work, and you just have to kind of decide at the end of the day can you deal with it or can’t you.

You know, we had a big lawsuit with the U.S. government. That’s never a fun thing. But you have to say, hey, can I feel good about myself, were we behaving correctly, and how do we feel, and how positive can you be?

We went through a little bit of a period about five or six years ago, there was a thing called the dot-com bubble. Everybody thought that essentially you could go and start a company, and so we were losing people. And whenever anybody leaves Microsoft, it’s like a dagger in me, it just bugs me, because I think, oh no, don’t leave. That doesn’t mean people don’t, but at 75,000 I know fewer of them now I guess you could say, but things like that get me personally.

And yet you have to say, hey, do I still get a chance tomorrow to come work with great people, am I excited about what I’m doing, can I change things, can I make things better.

About seven or eight years ago, Colin Powell, who was then a private citizen, between his generalship and his time as Secretary of State, came and spoke to our top people on leadership. And he had a line that I think is just — you’ve just got to remember it no matter what you do in life. Optimism is a force multiplier, optimism, optimism. So, even when you’re down and you say like, oh, I’ve just really got sort of kicked in the stomach today, you just have to say tomorrow is a better day, I’m coming after it, I’m coming back. And the more optimistic anyone is, all the people around them also feel better and feed off of it.

You can’t stop being realistic about what the real situation is, but you’ve got to stay positive, I think that’s super important.

PARTICIPANT: And our next question is from Washington, DC. The question is, is Microsoft the place you will work for the rest of your life? [From a student at] HD Woodson High School in Washington, DC at 12th grade.

STEVE BALLMER: Well, Earl, there are two parts to that, and I’m going to answer both of them. I will never work anyplace else full time other than Microsoft. I don’t think I’ll work till the day I die, however. (Laughter.) And you ask, will I work here the rest of my life. The truth is I want to work here as long as I’m able to make a great contribution. I’ve kind of told Microsofties that I’d probably be here about another 10 years. I’ve got a 2nd grader; that would get him into college at least before I stop.

But the truth is at some point I’m not sure I’ll have enough energy to do this job as effectively as it needs to get done. You know, in a lot of jobs you’ve got to have your energy. You’ve got to be fired up, psyched up every day. When I’m not in Seattle, I would say I tend to work something like 13, 14 hours a day. When I’m home, I try to get home in time to have dinner with my kids and that sort of stuff.

So, I’d say this will be the only place I work full time. I suspect when I’m not working here full time, I’ll find something else to do part time. But at least 10 years I think I’ve got the fire and energy, and I try to go running every morning, stay in good enough shape that I can actually do my job.

And it may sound funny to say you have to run to do a business job as opposed to an athletics job, but, yeah, any hard job is going to require that you stay sort of physically and mentally tuned up.

PARTICIPANT: And our next question is, besides this event, what other efforts, approaches have you taken to introduce youth to technological careers? And this is from SVC.

STEVE BALLMER: The primary thing I think I would say we’ve focused in on is a program, two programs, one to try to put computers and software into I’ll say community centers, but I really mean that quite broadly, anyplace that kids spend time not in school. So that can be community centers, it can be churches, it can be YMCAs, a lot of different places where kids outside of school want to interact.

The other thing we’ve done a lot of is teacher training, and done a lot of work to try to get software at very low prices or free into schools. We’ve tried to do a lot of work to train teachers, because teachers have a hard time — schools have a hard time introducing computers more and more into the program if the teachers feel uncomfortable. I’ll bet at least somebody in this room will tell me that they know more about the computers than most of their teachers. I’d guess, yes, we would get a couple of those. And people who grow up with this stuff feel more comfortable, so we’ve been working with teachers and students, we’ve been working with schools, and we’ve been working kind of the community center world broadly.

PARTICIPANT: Now I’d like to open the questions up to the floor. If anybody has any questions from the floor, can you please raise your hand?

STEVE BALLMER: How about the fellow here from Stadium? At least it looks like it from your sweatshirt.

QUESTION: When the iPhone comes out, how will it affect the sales of the Zune and the different technology that’s coming out from Microsoft?

STEVE BALLMER: Well, look, everybody gets a chance to do good work. We get a chance to do good work, Apple gets a chance to do good work. We’ll see, we’ll see how much people think what they’ve done is good work. I’m sure a lot of people are going to think there’s at least one or two things in there that are cool, and I think a lot of people, I don’t know, 500 bucks for a phone, with a plan, I don’t know what it’s going to be like for everybody, but that seems a little pricy to me for whatever set of reasons. Can you afford the 500 bucks? Would your parents want to give you something? I mean, I wouldn’t let my kids carry anything around for — they lose — how many cell phone — anybody here ever lose a cell phone besides me?

I mean, you just have to sort of think about it and say, you know, what about this thing? I’m not sure it makes a huge breakthrough right away, but that’s one of the great things that makes — ensures that everybody gets better products at lower prices. We and Apple, Zunes and Windows phones, we’re going to compete like crazy, and somehow out of all of that, people are going to be able to find cheaper, better products. And that’s a good thing, and since I work at Microsoft, I can’t say I guarantee you, but I could say I’d tell you which one I want to win, and we’re going to be working very hard to kind of knock their block off, so to speak.

Yeah, the lady here. You guys both have your hands up, so we’ll go one after the other, and you can decide who goes first.

QUESTION: I wanted to know how for the Live Search, when you did the 3D images, how did you guys get it to look so realistic, because I know on Google they have that map search, but like when you get real close to stuff it’s like real pixilized. So how did you guys get it to look so realistic?

STEVE BALLMER: Well, you know, we have a bunch of guys who basically — there are two things. One, we’ve really done a lot of work to capture the information in a more detailed form. I mean, literally we have people flying over many, many parts of the world capturing that image data very rich.

Number two, we’ve got very smart software guys who are very good at taking the software and manipulating the images. I’m not going to say it’s perfect. You know how we stopped without going all the way down on the 50-yard line? I think we would have looked a little pixilated down there on the 50-yard line. But nonetheless, it is an area where I think clearly our engineers have been smarter the way they take information and synthesize a picture that looks pleasing to your eye.

QUESTION: In the next five years, how do you see Microsoft further impacting the global community?

STEVE BALLMER: Well, the number one thing, and I say this always to people, the number one impact we make on society is by moving technology forward. Early I think was the fellow who asked the question, when am I going to leave. If I left today, I could talk about the contribution to the National Urban League or this or that. The number one thing I would say we did for society while I was here is we really got PCs to be open, available, cheap and popular. And I think that’s made a huge difference on society and the community, et cetera. And we’ve done other things with that, but no computer to computer is a huge change.

If I look out the next 10 years, I’d say, look, there’s a couple of other big frontiers coming. Will all of the world’s information essentially be available in computerized form? It’s still not today. I mean, there are a lot of things we think about getting in computerized form, but you don’t get movies really. I mean, we brag we have 100 or 200 for download. But literally the day you can communicate with anybody, get the whole world’s information, that’s another big change.

The day you can speak to your computer and it understands what you mean. I’ll give you an example. Before I leave on a trip, I say to my secretary, get me ready for my trip to New York. And she knows what that means. It means get all of the information about all the customers I’m going to see, and last time I saw them, put it on my laptop so that when I get on the airplane I can read it.

Now, it turns out my computer knows everything my secretary knows. My computer knows who I’m seeing — it’s in my schedule. My computer actually has access to all of the information from my other meetings, all the folders, all the information. But my computer is not smart enough to know what it means when I say, get me ready.

And whether it’s four years from now, or 10 years from now, that’s the next frontier. Today, we talk to the computer in a pretty dumb way: File, Open. I mean, it would be like telling my secretary, go to my desk, open the drawer, look through the files, find the one called this, take it. Oh, what dopiness. And yet that’s the way both we as regular people, and programmers program the computer in these pretty low level ways. And you want to be able to describe your intention to the computer, not every little microscopic instruction.

When Marc is up here saying he needs a little bit more of Justin’s time, what he’s really saying is he just doesn’t know how to say what he means and have the computer figure the rest out.

Now, search is getting a little bit that way. I mean, you can type almost anything in, and you might get garbage back, but at least it’s a little closer. And we need to do more and more so the computer understands what you mean, and takes an action as opposed to the computer forces you to let’s say stoop to its level and describe exactly what to do. And I think if we can make those breakthroughs over the next four, five, six, seven years, that the impact that will have in terms of people being more productive will be huge.

Now, of course, we’ll be doing a set of other things as a company also to invest in the community and society, but our products are the most powerful statement because I think as we say in our mission statement, we’re all about helping people realize their potential. That’s what computers do, computers assist people. They assist people in being more productive, being more creative, being able to express themselves.

There used to be this whole worry about will computers replace people. Well, computers may get some things done that people do today, but only because they’re enabling people to do more important things. And when I was a kid, there was the whole big movie about computers replacing people, blah, blah, blah. That’s never going to happen. Computers are a tool that enable people, and we need to help enable people to do more.


PARTICIPANT: So thank you so much, Steve.

STEVE BALLMER: I think that means I’m done.

PARTICIPANT: We just wanted to thank you for your time. We’re glad you made it out. And everybody, I hope you got a good glimpse into his career advice, as well as a glimpse into technology. And we thank you, Steve, for our time, we appreciate you coming down.

STEVE BALLMER: Thanks, everybody, very, very much. Have a great day. (Applause.)


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