Steve Ballmer: 14th Annual Blacks at Microsoft Minority Student Day

STEVE BALLMER: Thanks, and I want to welcome and thank everybody for coming and spending time with us today. We try to keep things interesting and moving and hopefully kind of fun. I hope I don’t drag that down in any way; that will be my goal for the next few minutes.

I forget now how many years we’ve been doing this Minority Student Day, the BAM group, here at Microsoft, 12?

MODERATOR: Fourteen.

STEVE BALLMER: Fourteen. What I do know is it’s been a long time, it’s a long time and I’ve had the real honor and the real privilege of having a chance to talk to groups of kids in high school over almost, I’d say, probably every other year I’ve had this opportunity, and for me it’s a lot of fun.

It turns out that if you really want to know what’s hot in technology you talk to teenage kids. I mean, it’s always the case. I mean, if you want to know what’s going to be hot, you look at what teenage kids are doing.

And I’ll give you just an example. How many people here have IM’d somebody within the last day or two? You ask the same question of most people, even people today who work at Microsoft, you get a much smaller percentage of people put their hands up. The whole wave and fascination with Instant Messaging really started with younger people, iPod started with younger people; a lot of the key things and key trends and key things that are going on — I hate to mention that one, it’s a competitor, but fair is far — but a lot of the key trends really get established because kids your age are actually a lot more flexible, a lot more open to doing new things than people my age, even people who work at Microsoft my age, and it really is phenomenal to see people using technology.

A small show of hands: How many of you would say you use computers regularly, every day, somehow, in school? How many people in this room text-message somehow on a cell phone regularly? How many of you listen to music on an iPod? (Laughter.) The rest of you should take a look at the Zen from Creative; it runs Windows Media technology, I’ve got to sell something while you’re here today. (Laughter.)

No, you really take a look at it and you go back a few years, and technology was just not that accessible, there weren’t that many people who had the ability to get access to a computer, to use a computer, and now it’s pretty much, I think, imponderable, and the show of hands I think tells us that, to even think about doing school work and getting things done and learning new things without access to a personal computer.

And that’s really kind of the thing that really switches us on, that really kind of fires us up heart, body and soul. We call that our mission: Enabling people and businesses around the world to realize their full potential. Because that’s really what a computer is, the computer is just a tool that you use to get something done. A computer can be something you use to find an answer for a school project, send e-mail to a friend to help you, a computer can be something that you use for fun, it can be something that you use to create a report, but it doesn’t do any more for you than what you put into it and what you get out of it.

And so when we think about what we do, we think we give you the tools that let you explore, that let you learn, that let you be productive, entertain, creative, whatever it is you want to do.

And when we think about this mission we think, wow, this mission has got many years to come, there are still tons of things. If we go out and talk to kids, to teenagers, to high school kids, to anybody, there are still tons and tons and tons of things that people can’t do that they really want to do with computers.

I had a little meeting in my office, a guy who works at Microsoft, but he’s really more of a friend than anything else, I never see him at work but I see him socially more than I do at work, but he stopped by and he was telling me about a new product idea he had, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and I said, wow, that’s really great, I was just trying to do that yesterday, I couldn’t get all the information I needed to do our budget for next year real simply and, wow, you could make that tool, wouldn’t that be great.

Each of you stop right now and think for a second, just stop and think, what is it that you’ve wanted to do, tried to do, wished you could do with your computer that you just couldn’t get done somehow? And every one of those things we think is an opportunity for computers to continue to change people’s lives in a very, very good and positive way.

I think for folks in the audience you can think about visiting Microsoft sort of in two different ways. Some of you may have real interest in computers, you’re computer heads, you want to get a career in computers somehow, you want to sell and market software or hardware or you want to build new devices, you want to design software and some of you will say, hey, I have no interest in any of that, all I want to do is to be able to use these things.

And I think both of those are very legitimate places to be. The thing I don’t think anybody can afford to say in the year 2005 is, I’m going to ignore computers. I think they are a fundamental tool everybody is going to have to understand how to use to get a job. I don’t think there’s going to be any jobs that you’re able to get anyplace in the world unless you feel comfortable with a computer within 10 years.

And people say, oh, well, there’s this job — no. You go work down at McDonald’s, you’re going to use a computer, and you’re going to have to know how to use a computer because it is still the fundamental tool people use for information.

So I applaud and really congratulate you on taking enough interest and spending some time with us here today and getting a little bit of a sense hopefully of our excitement and enthusiasm about what’s still to come.

The lady sitting right there with a video camera, which is fine, ma’am, but I’m going to make a point about that video camera. I give lots of speeches and a lot of videotape, there’s always somebody making a video. In the old days nobody ever looked at those videos. Somebody had them, they were there, nobody knew what to do with them. Nowadays you can put them up on the Internet, people can go look at them, you can share them with people in a much easier way.

Heck, I see a bunch of you taking notes — well, not that many, but a few of you taking notes anyway. I haven’t said anything that unbelievable so it’s OK you’re not taking notes. But you think about how do people take notes. If you could go to class and every time you were sitting there the teacher’s voice was being broadcast, it was all being recorded along with the video of what they were doing on a computer that you had with you, you could make notes on the computer and your notes were synchronized in time with what the teacher was saying, so if you can’t figure something out later you can go click on your notes and you can hear the teacher say it again, see what was on the whiteboard or the blackboard, see what was going on, see what the teacher was telling you, I think it just changes the way people think about education.

The stuff is expensive, computers are still expensive, that’s a problem, that’s a challenge. Companies like ours and others are working on trying to make this stuff more and more affordable, and, frankly, more and more general-purpose. If you knew you could buy one machine, and the machine was your music player and the machine was your phone and the machine was your computer and the machine was your this, your that and the other thing, you take the bunch of little budgets that you had, mass them all up and you might decide, yeah, I can afford to go get one of those, that would make sense for me.

So there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done, but these computers, these tools, these information tools, I think, are very, very, very important. And whether you’re a teenager or — a teenager, I think you’ve got an advantage. You’re just more flexible, it’s easier to learn things now than it will be any other time in your life. I can see that in my own house. I’ve got a teenager, at least as of two days ago he was a teenager, and I have a wife, my wife is not a teenager anymore; my wife can’t figure out how to take care of the computers in our house, my teenager has figured out how to take care, and not take care when he doesn’t want to, of all the computers in the house.

So take advantage of the great time, the great opportunity to really get involved and learn this stuff now.

It’s a great time to be interested in computers. They’re everywhere, people are innovating, new things are happening, there’s a lot of chance to go get jobs, whether it’s in the computer industry or anywhere else. And certainly companies like ours, we’re always looking for bright, talented, motivated people, the kind of people, the kind of kids who are here in the room today to come help us drive innovation and do some of the kinds of neat things that we do and take it yet to another level.

I get asked a lot, you know, is this thing over, should I go find some other business to get interested in because the computer thing has kind of run out? It just hasn’t. When you go back to that mission and you think about the number of things you had in your head that your computers don’t do for you yet that you want them to do, every one of those ideas is an idea that some creative person can bring to life through software, and I just think there’s incredible opportunity for folks who are interested.

We thought we’d show you a couple demonstrations of some cool stuff that we’re working on here at Microsoft, hopefully you get a bit of a kick out of them. I’m going to have two folks come on up and join me who will do two different demos. The second one is the Xbox demo, the second one, so keep you waiting for the second demo. The first demo we want to show you is some stuff that we’re doing now with video, and I’m going to ask Udiyan Padmanabhan to come on up and do a little demonstration for us, so please welcome Udi (Applause.)


STEVE BALLMER: What have you got?

UDIYAN PADMANABHAN: How many people here watch television? I do, too. At Microsoft we’re building software that makes watching television more than just watching television, we’re going to make it way more interesting.

So where do you guys watch television? The living room, maybe the bedroom. The bathroom? No, all right, maybe not there. But what I’m going to show you is a Media Center PC. This is a special PC that helps you do more with your television.

So let’s start the Media Center PC now.

STEVE BALLMER: This is a regular old PC. You can use it for your homework as much as you like but you can also use it when you sit down to watch television. It’s not like a separate one you’ve got to go get, it does both things.

UDIYAN PADMANABHAN: Do people like OutKast? All right, let’s go listen to some OutKast now. So you can see some pretty cool album covers here and let’s go find Speakerboxxx. Let’s start playing — what are we playing? All right. (Audio.) So we’re playing “Hey Ya!” How about we show your friends some pictures you took on your vacation? Let’s go to My Pictures, play a slideshow, show some cool demos there.

Now, what more can you do with this? How about while you’re doing all of this you’re missing your TV show; you can go and record your TV show. And I recorded some — you want football? All right, football.

STEVE BALLMER: You were trying to get to “Fast and Furious,” or which one were you looking for?

UDIYAN PADMANABHAN: “The Fast and Furious,” yeah.

So you can do all of this while you’re looking at your TV and you can do even more with this PC. Go grab one and try it out.

But now how many of you actually stay in the house all the time? I didn’t. When my mom and dad push me and said, you go stay in your room, I’d never be at home when I was in high school.

So now I’m going to show you guys a Portable Media Center. So my team works on something called the Portable Media Center. What if you could do all the things you’re doing on the PC in your hand? And that is what I’m going to show you guys now with this.

So I switch this guy on and you can hook the Portable Media Center up to your PC and take all of your TV shows with you. I’m going to show you guys a little bit of “The Fast and the Furious.” I don’t know if you guys like this movie but this movie makes me want to drive.

Now, how many people have cell phones here? Do you guys use cell phones? Well, I use my cell phone, too like I’m holding one up right here. What do you guys do with your cell phone, like talk on the phone, text message? Lots of people text message, Steve asked you guys a little earlier.

Well, what if you could do more? So I’m going to show you guys a Windows Mobile Smart Phone running a Windows Media Player. And what if you could take your “Fast and the Furious” on the phone? That’s exactly what we’re going to do. (Video playing.) Now, isn’t that cool? This is what I wanted when I was in detention — no, actually I meant lunch break. (Laughter.)

You know what, at Microsoft we do a lot of cool things. When I joined here, in my first year I never thought I’d actually make a product and ship it and see it in stores and this is what we did. Now, that is cool.

Now, what do you think you guys can do when you’re here? I bet a lot.

So now I’m going to call Garrett from the Xbox team — Garrett — and he’s going to show you his piece of the Xbox demo. (Applause.)

STEVE BALLMER: I’m going to just put this out and maybe pass it from table to table and then Udi will get it, but I bet Udi will want his phone back.

UDIYAN PADMANABHAN: Yeah, as long as you guys don’t take my calls, it’s fine, it’s my cell phone. (Laughter.)

GARRETT YOUNG: Okay, so as Udi mentioned, I’m Garrett and I’m going to show you Forza Motorsport, so you too, Steve, if you haven’t had a chance to see it yet. But this is a brand new racing simulation that we’re bringing out on the Xbox. You guys play games? We’re doing a lot of —

STEVE BALLMER: Have we got any Xbox owners in the audience?

GARRETT YOUNG: Good, excellent, excellent, good.

STEVE BALLMER: Any PlayStation 2 owners in the audience? Any GameCube owners in the audience? Ooh, OK.

We know who the cool kids are, we know who the cool kids are.

So anyway, as I said, I’m going to show you Forza Motorsports, so this is a brand new game we’re coming out with on the Xbox and this is a new franchise, so for a lot of you, you probably have not heard of this game before.

Now, as I said, it’s a racing simulation, so when we were first designing this game a couple of years ago we really came at the game for really three core ways, three core things we wanted to deliver in this game play experience. One is realistic graphics, which you’ll see some of that here in a second, simulation physics so the cars feel really realistic and then also a sense of car collection and car ownership and that’s something that’s really important and something I’ll touch on first.

In a game like this the car is obviously the star in a racing game so we have over 200 of the coolest and most recognizable cars in the world, cars from Ferrari and Porsche, Nissan, Dodge, basically any car that you kind of think, wow, that’s a car that I would want to race around on a racetrack, it’s pretty likely we have that car in the game.

But the cool thing that is different and unique in this game is not that we have a car like the Mazda RX8 but it’s what you can do to that Mazda RX8. You can see I’ve given my car a paint job, put the flames on there, put the number 8 on there, the decals. I’ve also added, you can see the front bumper is different, the hood scoop, I’ve done that differently, the side skirts, I added the rear diffuser here, it’s kind of dark but you can see that that’s very different than the first car, the rear wing that I put on there, all things that I’ve done to this car. I did not buy this car in the garage, I did all this through the tools in this game to make it look really unique.

And also one thing I want to make sure to point out is that the parts that I add, actually it does more than just change how your car looks, it actually changes how your car performs. So that rear wing, for instance, that’s going to change the balance of weight on the car so I’m going to have a little bit more weight on the back of the car, as you can see, but also most importantly it’s going to give me more down force on the drive wheels — this is a rear wheel drive car right here, this RX8, and it’s going to give me more down force, which is going to give me better traction at high speeds, so that’s a very cool thing, tool.

But the key message here and the key point here is that I can make my car look however I want it to look, so when I go race against other people over at Xbox Live, say, Steve and I are racing over at Xbox Live, he sees that car show up and he goes, okay, I know that’s Garrett’s car because nobody else has a car like this. And he sees this car passing him and he goes, damn, Garrett just passed me on the track. (Laughter.)

So this is the point where I like to take the car out on the track and show you guys the graphics of the game a little bit and talk about the game a little bit more but I get to play this every day, so how about we get a volunteer? Anybody willing and able, somebody kind of close? Well, I don’t like the Yankees, I’m sorry, I can’t go with a Yankees fan. I don’t like the Lakers either. How about you right here, you’re close? I’m sorry, I’m a Mariners fan, what can you say, Mariners and a Sonics guy. What’s your name?

ANDREW: Andrew.

GARRETT YOUNG: Andrew, nice to meet you. So come on, stand right here. You can use this screen right here. Here you go, gas, brake. Got it?

ANDREW: I got it.

GARRETT YOUNG: There you go.

Now, Andrew is going to take it really easy on this car because I spent a lot of time on the paint job so try not to bang it up, Andrew. But as he race around I just want to talk about a couple things and hopefully Andrew takes care of my car.

So you can see that we’ve got the basics here, you can see we’ve got some beautiful graphics, a lot of detail on the cars, the opponent cars and as they’re passing you can see that, a lot of detail on the environment, a lot of detail in the back of that Nissan, the skyline that Andrew is — ooh.


So Andrew didn’t think much of that paint job. (Laughter.)

GARRETT YOUNG: Another volunteer? No, I’m just kidding. (Laughter.)

So anyway, that’s a little bit about the basics graphically and I already mentioned Xbox Live but the thing that I’m really proud of, it is a brand new game and we are a brand new team building this, brought together to build this game. The thing I’m really proud of is a lot of the innovation that we’re doing. We’re doing innovation on the design side, we talked about it and I gave you a little taste of the customization and the personalization that you can do to your car, but also things like again I’ve asked Andrew not to damage out the car but if he did, say, hit a wall at 120 miles an hour — not that I want you to do that Andrew — your car is going to look different and it’s going to perform different.

Now, you might think, OK, that’s a natural thing, that happens in the real world, that’s what you might expect —

AUDIENCE: Oh! (Laughter.)

GARRETT: You’re going to have to repaint that car for me later.

But your car is not going to look the same and it’s not going to act the same, it’s not going to perform the same after you hit the wall that hard and you might think, like I said, that that’s a natural thing, that happens in the real world, that’s what all games do. Well, not all games do that. So we’re innovating a little bit in the damage and how we’re impacting the cars there.

And then also over at Xbox Live we’re doing a bunch of innovation there. Also one thing that I do want to mention, an innovation, a new thing that we’re doing over at Xbox Live is buying and selling of cars. So say your friend, say I have a car that Steve wants and Steve’s got a car in his garage that I want, we can sell those to each other over Xbox Live, that’s also an innovation. So a lot of cool stuff that we’re doing here in this game and stuff that we’re really proud of.

I tell you, as a game maker we live and die on innovation. If we don’t innovate, if we don’t do something new, then no one is going to play our game, so it’s really critical that we innovate. And the beauty of being in games and making games, you guys heard Adam earlier I think say that he got into programming because he wanted to make games and, Adam, if you’re looking for a job come talk to me I guess, we’ll talk after this, but really the beauty of working in games — good job, Andrew, good job, let’s give Andrew a hand, nice work, Andrew. (Applause.) The beauty of working in games is that our ability to innovate is really limited only by our own skills, our own passion and our own imagination for me, for the people on the team and really this is for everybody making games everywhere.

So as you think about your career, I know this is kind of a career day for you guys, as you guys think about your career and futures in computer science, think about games also because there are opportunities there.

So thanks for your time, thanks, Steve. (Applause.)

Thanks, Garrett.

Of all the guys who have a hard time at Microsoft, recruiting people to come work on what they do, our games guys don’t have the hardest time. A few people think that might be kind of fun stuff to work on.

I want to switch gears just for a minute or two and talk a little bit about some of the kinds of things Microsoft is trying to do in the community, not just making software in computers and trying to do innovative work, but also trying to be part of promoting the use of computers and literacy with computers broadly in the community.

We have a program we call our Unlimited Potential program, which we now run in 83 countries, which is focused in on making contributions of money, time and software in a way that helps encourage the use of computers by the broadest segment of population possible. We’ve given over $100 million through our Unlimited Potential program since May 2003, so really just in the last couple of years, and we’ve made gifts and been involved with a lot of really, really worthy organizations.

One of the organizations that Microsoft has the privilege of being involved with is the Rotary Boys and Girls Club here in Seattle, and I want to invite up on stage, if you will, Patrick Carter from Rotary Boys and Girls [Club]. (Cheers, applause.) Miss. Patrick, there’s the mike. Hello, good to see you. Thank you.

PATRICK CARTER: I see a lot of people here that I know. I didn’t plan on being up on stage, so you guys bear with me. I wore a suit and I should have put my jeans on today.

How many of you know about Rotary Boys and Girls Club? How many have attended a Boys and Girls Club? Okay, this is a big question. Many of you are teenagers; how many go to the Boys and Girls Club today? I see a father back there raising his hand; his daughter comes to Rotary Boys and Girls Club and he’s there every day.

Our goal is to make sure that we are not missing out on the teens and giving you what you want. And a lot of people think that Rotary is about just sports and basketball. How many of you know about Rotary Boys and Girls Club, the Style program? Rotary Style, have you heard about them, Steve?


PATRICK CARTER: We’re known for basketball, but we want to be known for education and technology. The club has been there for 50 years on the same corner, 19th and Spruce in Seattle. We do homework assistance, tutoring. We also have two computer labs. There’s 40 — help me, 42 computers, two different computer labs. We have our founder here, Sharon Gantz-Bloome, who brought technology to our club when no one else was thinking about it, and that was years ago and she was instrumental in helping us getting our second lab. Thank you, Sharon, thank you. (Applause.) No one was thinking about technology in the inner city at that particular time.

We also have our board president here, Pat Hansen, who is making sure that we’re able to keep the doors open and leading our board in getting the resources, financial resources, technology, everything. (Applause.)

I know I’m introducing a lot of people but I also have Charles Paris here, he’s the guy who keeps us connected in more ways than one, the Internet and hardware, software, and he’s also a national trainer for the Boys and Girls Club of America. (Applause.) The Boys and Girls Club of America has a partnership with Microsoft, and we have a curriculum that was written by them especially for Boys and Girls Clubs and it’s called Club Tech and it focuses on a variety of things, arts, sports, technology and we’re on board with that but we want to be a step ahead of the game. We have Microsoft here in our backyard and we have to stay on top of our game here.

So we rely on Charles as a national trainer and our leader here in the county to help us stay connected with Microsoft. We rely on Microsoft not only for the software but for the resources and volunteers in our communities.

We also know that you have computer access at your schools and at Boys and Girls Clubs or your community centers or at Technology Access Foundation; wherever you go to learn about computers, many of us go home and there’s not a computer at home. So we’ve started a Build and Take Program, which basically you build the computer at our club and you get to take it home. Would you like to do that? (Applause.) It doesn’t have to be a new computer; we take the computers, break them down, you learn what a motherboard is, you learn all the guts of the computer, you learn what that’s about and then you take the software and you load it onto the computer and you take the computer home. Computers cost, what, $400, $500, $600, a thousand dollars, whatever you want on it, it costs a lot of money. You can take 50 bucks at our club and walk home with a computer but you’ve got to do the work to make sure that that happens.

I can go on and on about what we’re doing here but Boys and Girls Club is more than just about sports, we offer a variety of programs, we have visual arts, we have the performing arts, we have a choir, we have recently received a grant to start guitar lessons, piano lessons, we’ve recorded CDs in our computer lab with national recording artist Michael Powers. Yes, you can use technology to record music. Right now we’re doing moviemaking at our club, the kids are learning how to make movies.

We have Money Matters. What does it sound like? Something that involves money, right? It’s a program that we’re teaching the kids how to manage their money, what is credit, what is a debit card, what is a credit card, how do you make decisions, go online to check the stock market, investments.

I can go on and on but if we don’t give you all the tools necessary you’re not going to be successful. And I guarantee you that if you stay in front of adults and say, hey, I want to learn, I want to do this, you tell me you were going to do this, please let me do this, I think that you guys will be successful.

Stand tall but not too tall that you can’t reach back and help somebody else along the way. Thank you. (Cheers, applause.)

STEVE BALLMER: Thank you so much.

Before we wrap, I want to talk a little bit about some work we’ve done in youth programs specific for minority students. We have 30 high school summer internships that we run here at Microsoft. If you’re interested, our folks will be interested in hearing from you, I know that very much.

We’ve awarded over $400,000 in college scholarships, we have some mentoring programs and partnerships with a couple of great organizations, the National Society of Black Engineers and the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, particularly their technology initiatives.

These are done in conjunction with BAM, Blacks at Microsoft, and our BAM organization is stepping up today with a new scholarship fund, a new $20,000 scholarship fund for kids. We’re going to award the first monies here today to our first winners of scholarships from that fund. We had a set of folks from the communities in which we have large employee populations down in Las Colinas, Texas, here in Seattle and a number of other places and we’ve picked two winners, our BAM team has picked two winners for these scholarships. The winner gets $2,500 towards college plus a Tablet PC.

And our first winner is, congratulate please Yusuf Beshir from Roosevelt High School here in Seattle. (Applause.) Congratulations.

Now, I had — you can’t get off that easy, you’ve got to get the big check, the whole thing. Now, I don’t know if Yusuf knows, but I actually had a chance to read your essay and I thought it was pretty darn good, congratulations. And there’s a $2,500 scholarship and a Tablet PC for Yusuf. (Applause.)

I would carry that one because it can break and you can carry that one separately because that one doesn’t break.

Congratulations, Yusuf. (Applause.)

We’ve got a second winner today. Our second winner is please congratulate in Las Colinas, Texas, Kandace Waddy from the Newman-Smith High School. (Applause.)

We have several hundred Microsoft folks down there in Texas on the phone serving our customers and we want to make sure we’re sharing, shall we say, broadly in the communities in which Microsoft has a presence.

Let’s please congratulate both of our winners. (Applause.)

I want to thank you again very, very much for coming out and taking the time. I want to encourage you again to continue to be excited, to spend time to get to know what the computer can do for you. Thanks very much. (Applause.)