Steve Ballmer: China Be What’s Next & Awards Ceremony

Remarks by Steve Ballmer, Chief Executive Officer
Beijing, China
May 24, 2011

STEVE BALLMER: Welcome. I made the most important decision I’m going to make all day backstage. I figure technical and student audience, no coat, no tie, just developers all the time. (Applause.)

It’s great to have a chance to be here today. I’m very fortunate to be able to visit China pretty much every year and get a chance to meet with government leaders, customers, partners, literally thousands of Microsoft employees working and living in China, all of whom play such an important role in creating products from China that are used by consumers and businesses around the world.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaks about innovation in Beijing on May 24, 2011.

This year, I’m excited to have the opportunity to spend time with you, a group of extremely talented, inspired, and inspiring students and developers and business leaders who share with me and with Microsoft a real passion for technology and the impact that it can have on the world. Your creativity, your commitment to technology is going to be foundational to the future of China and a vision to transform into a knowledge-based economy. It’s a vision that Microsoft itself is deeply committed to and helping to contribute to.

Today, I want to start with a view into the future of technology. What we’re doing at Microsoft to invest in that future, and the opportunities that we think it presents here in China. Then I want to take a look at a few of the very creative solutions that have been developed by some of China’s brightest students as part of the Imagine Cup competition that we run for students here in China and around the world, as well as from business leaders who are part of our BizSpark program, designed to stimulate great startups across the world.

Technology is evolving at a remarkably rapid pace. And at Microsoft, we’re working hard every day to push the boundaries of what’s possible. The technology that we create makes life better for literally billions of people and millions of companies around the globe.

To do this, Microsoft takes a very broad look at how technology can actually impact all aspects of people’s lives. Let me start with entertainment just as an example of that phenomenon. I’ll start there because technology first seen in the entertainment space, it will have an increasingly significant impact on every aspect of lives.

Let me give you an example and explain. Last year, Microsoft introduced a product that’s called Kinect for Xbox to the world. Kinect is basically a sensor, microphones and cameras, that enables people to interact with a television using just their voice, their movement and their gestures.

So if you’re playing a video game and you want to jump on screen, boom, just jump and your character on screen jumps with you because of the vision and image recognition. If you want to select a movie to watch, just wave your hand, and the sensor recognizes it and will scroll through the movies that are up on your TV screen and let you pick. No remote control necessary, no video game controller, no training necessary. Just your body and your voice being recognized by the intelligence associated with your TV.

This Kinect technology is the result of many years of research in our labs, and a lot of the work was actually led by researchers at our R&D labs here in China. I think Kinect is currently the best example around of an important emerging technology that we all refer to as natural user interface.

Natural user interface enables people to interact with technology in a much more human and user-friendly way. We’re using those advances to transform the way people experience entertainment to start. But we’re going to bring the Kinect technology into other areas — business, science, education, and medicine — by connecting those same technologies to the PC and other devices.

There are so many amazing opportunities to enhance the value of technology simply by removing the barriers to access technology that are today unavoidable when people are forced to use, let me call them, technical modes of interaction with a computer.

Another area that we’re investing in at Microsoft is search through our Bing search engine. We don’t even call it a search engine, we don’t think that’s the future. Bing is a decision engine because we believe the technology should do more than just help you find links of information. We believe technology should help people to accomplish the tasks and things in their lives with greater speed, effectiveness, and creativity.

Our work on Bing is deepening, or as I guess I’m supposed to say here in China, “Bing.” But our work on Bing is deepening our understanding of the world’s people and knowledge. We basically build a model of all of the information on the Internet and an understanding of people. And then we try to use those to bring them together and let people learn, decide, and take action.

This will create a world where devices, phones, PCs, TVs, and others really understand what we want to do and the context we’re in so that the devices anticipate in advance and help us all accomplish tasks.

If you think about it, the most natural user interface is the ability for a PC or other device not just to listen or see, but to understand. Let me give you an example. Suppose I’m getting ready to take an airplane flight and I need to print my boarding pass.

I’d like to be able to issue the task directly from my PC, print boarding pass. Instead, today, I find a website, I type in some data, I read through some menus, and I click a few buttons. I literally just want to be able to say “print boarding pass.” My technology knows that I’m on a trip, where I’m going. And I look forward to the day when I can give my computer a verbal command to print my boarding pass and it does it for me super intelligently, knowing where I’m flying to, what airline I’m taking, and what my confirmation number is. That is literally where computing is heading.

We also see significant opportunities in communications and productivity advances. We imagine what it would be like if communication wasn’t limited by distance or device. We’re working to create experiences where people can connect to others in ways that are most natural.

As a result, soon we’ll extend beyond the world today which will remain important of e-mail and voice and text messages to a world with even broader and richer experiences. Talking to friends and colleagues on the other side of the world will be as seamless as talking to them across a dining room table or a conference room.

I love being here, but we anticipate building the technology that would let us have as good a conference even if we were interacting virtually. Think about everyday experiences like attending a lecture at university, or going to a meeting at your child’s school, or capturing what it felt like at a family reunion or celebration or brainstorming with teammates at work. All of those experiences can be and will be enhanced with online technology that makes them significantly better, whether you’re participating in person or remotely, and whether you’re participating in real time or after the fact. Bringing together all of these forms of communication, data, voice, video, instant messaging. All on a single screen, phone, PC, TV, slate, is very powerful.

That’s why we announced earlier this month our acquisition of Skype. Together, Microsoft and Skype, we think, has an opportunity to really define and trend-set the future of communications. We’re making enhancements in the key Office applications — Outlook and Lync and others — by introducing new cloud services so that companies of all sizes can collaborate and interact with agility and effectiveness.

Technology like cloud computing has the potential to give millions of entrepreneurs and startups and small businesses and enterprises in China and around the world an important edge in the global competition for new markets and customers.

As we see it, cloud computing is one of the most important technological shifts in the next 10 years, and by combining the scale of the Internet with the power of smart devices and the security of the Internet or the enterprise datacenter, we think cloud computing is an engine that will really drive growth and productivity for society and certainly new opportunities for all of us in the technology industry.

Through our Microsoft Azure platform, we’re playing a key role in unleashing the power of the cloud to software developers, to revolutionize how computing resources can be used by developers to create, store, create programs, store data, and connect with other computers.

In the process, with Azure, we think we’re changing how people will use technology to understand the world and to act on the insights they gain.

China is at the very center of our investments in cloud computing. More than 75 percent of the employees in Microsoft’s Asia-Pacific Research and Development Group are working on Microsoft’s comprehensive cloud computing technologies. And in September of 2010, we announced the Microsoft China Cloud Innovation Center. It’s a place where we can help partners and customers and developers in China take advantage of cloud computing.

Today, we’re excited to see companies like Shanghai Telecom and organizations like the municipal government of Chengdu work with Microsoft China to deploy private cloud solutions.

The last area of innovation and perhaps one of the most important is the evolution of the computing devices themselves. Through our deep partnerships with leading hardware companies, we think Microsoft is delivering a wide variety of amazing experiences in new form factors. There are, today, more than 1 billion genuine, genuine Windows PCs in the hands of customers around the world.

With Windows 7, you can perform online transactions and use online applications with great confidence and confidentiality. Genuine Windows 7 helps protect your personal content and ensures that you won’t compromise the performance of your high-quality PC with low-quality software.

We’re going to continue to develop new Windows PCs with our hardware technology partners. In fact, last January we announced that the next version of Windows will support the next generation of chip technologies, so-called systems on a chip. From Intel and AMD, of course, but also ARM processors from Invidia, from Qualcom, from Texas Instruments, and potentially others over time.

Whatever device — this is our mission — whatever device you use now or in the future, we want a version of Windows to be there. Windows, Windows Phones, Windows PCs. Windows Phones today are changing, we think, what people expect from smartphones. We’re just early, having shipped the product in November, and yet the early users of Windows Phones tell us that they’re thrilled with what they bought, they love it. And they’re excited to see where we’re going to go, including from the partnership that we’ve announced with Nokia to bring Windows Phones to literally millions of users around the world.

I’m excited about working with our partners, not just Nokia, but also others to bring Windows Phone to China during the next several months.

Microsoft’s focus on innovation also drives our focus on intellectual property rights. The campaign and commitments that the Chinese Government has underway to protect intellectual property are important, they’re very important not just for companies like Microsoft, but the entire technology industry here in China. And we appreciate China’s senior leaders really recognizing and approaching this important issue.

History certainly tells us that strong protection for intellectual property will contribute to more entrepreneurialism, business growth based on ideas and innovation, and a more vibrant economy overall. It’s why we believe the foremost beneficiary, as I said, of strong IP protection in China is China itself. As well as any industry in China that relies on innovation and creativity to provide value.

And it will lead to exactly the type of knowledge-based, technology-driven market that Microsoft and other IP and innovation companies want to be a part of.

All of this, all of it, points to a significant set of opportunities here in China. There are new opportunities to develop technology, start a business, and grow it on a global scale.

I was just with some of the Imagine Cup students. I’ll tell you, there’s a lot of creative people working on these ideas here in China. And there’s great opportunities for engineers and entrepreneurs to use talent and passion to create the next generation of products and services.

At Microsoft, we’ve built an innovation cycle in China that spans all the way from core research right through to software development and product support. Microsoft China plays a key role in enabling our company to build products for a global marketplace, but that still meet the needs of the consumer right here in China.

We’re very committed to continuing to work in close partnership with the Chinese Government to help it use technology to achieve national priorities and societal needs.

Since 2003, in cooperation with the NDRC and the MIIT, Microsoft has helped more than 90,000 software architects and senior program managers to be trained here in China. That number will grow to over 100,000 by the end of this year.

The current wave of technology innovation is driving great economic growth. Our own company has invested over $100 million into Chinese software companies for software development and testing services.

Last year, Microsoft China placed software development orders worth $162 million, which is five times greater than we were doing four or so years ago. A key area of focus and commitment in China for Microsoft is to students. Students who are passionate about technology and using it to change the world in positive ways.

That’s why we’re excited about the partnerships that we put in place with 40 leading Chinese universities and the joint research laboratories we’re building with the ten top universities as part of the Great Wall plan.

This Microsoft Imagine Cup, or what some have called “the Olympics of great ideas,” showcases the talents and creativity of students in China. In 2004, we introduced the Imagine Cup competition here, and so far teams from China have earned an impressive four world gold medals, eight silvers, and eight bronzes. And more than a dozen Chinese teams have used their Imagine Cup projects as the starting point to launch new businesses.

As I said earlier today, I saw some of the key innovations from some of the Imagine Cup people, and it is impressive. It’s impressive. It is now my pleasure to have a chance to invite on stage representatives from two university teams who are going to have a chance to show you some of the remarkable things that they’ve been thinking about and inventing.

Please join me in welcoming on stage representatives from the City Institute Dalian University of Technology, and the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications.