Steve Ballmer: Nikkei Symposium

Remarks by Steve Ballmer, Chief Executive Officer
Tokyo, Japan
May 23, 2011

STEVE BALLMER: Well, thank you very much. It’s very much a privilege to have a chance to join many of Japan’s most thoughtful leaders from business, from government, from academia, and from the media.

I want to thank Nikkei Newspaper for inviting me here today, and to have the opportunity to discuss the role of technology in Japan’s reconstruction.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaks at the Nikkei Symposium in Tokyo on May 23, 2011.

I’ll begin by expressing my deep sympathy to the people of Japan who were affected by the earthquake and the tsunami in March. The scale of what happened here, the extent of the devastation is truly beyond words. I think it is inspiring to hear how Japan has united in these very difficult times to move forward.

Certainly on behalf of Microsoft, I want you to know what while you were standing strong together, you do not stand alone. Our company is fully committed to assisting Japan in any way we can, and to the companies and individuals in this room, as the recovery efforts move forward in this long term process of rebuilding.

We see Japan as an important and longstanding friend and a vibrant part of the world’s marketplace. Microsoft has been in business here for 25 years, and we have today more than 2,500 employees in Japan.

Nihon Microsoft was our first country subsidiary outside the United States, and today, it is our largest, other than the United States.

We also have more than 8,000 companies, individual companies who are business partners of Microsoft’s here in Japan, spanning every field of technology, communications, entertainment, and more.

And while it’s certainly been painful to see the impact of the earthquake on our customers and our colleagues and our friends, we are hopeful about what we can do together to support Japan’s forward progress.

Microsoft’s commitment to Japan in the wake of the earthquake has included both financial and technical support. Initially, we provided a small $2 million donation to the relief efforts in both cash and in-kind contributions, and we are matching every dollar that our employees not only here in Japan but around the world are donating to the Japanese relief efforts.

We also offer free technical support and free temporary software licenses to an array of the customers and partners and organizations that have been involved in the response and relief efforts.

Additionally, more than 3,000 Windows PCs were distributed to evacuation workers so that they could communicate with the nonprofit organization headquarters to help keep people in touch. We’ve learned from other disasters, unfortunately, around the world, that there’s an important role for information technology to play in communications and tracking.

At Microsoft we believe that the steady march of progress provides great hope for the future, and that technology enables people, businesses, and organizations to accomplish great things.

We see remarkable opportunities for technology to help Japan through the recovery process now, and then fuel Japan’s transition into a new period of growth, development, prosperity.

The relief and recovery process is being supported by key technologies, specifically what we now in our industry refer to as cloud computing. Cloud computing is making it possible for organizations to scale quickly to provide the support services and applications that leaders, that volunteers, that citizens all need to connect with the people and information they need to do their important work.

We believe that cloud computing, computing that lives in the Internet, is so valuable to the relief and recovery process, that we are providing organizations across Japan free access to our cloud-based solutions, including Windows Azure, Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync Online, to help those organizations get their operations up and running again as quickly as possible.

So far more than a thousand websites and applications have been developed and deployed by these important organizations doing their work, websites like, for example, a disaster response portal that enables government agencies and nonprofit organizations, including the Iwate prefecture, and the Japanese Red Cross Society, to communicate with each other, and to connect with citizens.

Another example is a site created by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, to communicate radiation information for every prefecture in Japan.

We’ve also see cloud applications have a real and positive impact, one of which is known as JRescue. Built on our Windows Azure cloud system by our partner here in Japan, Digital Office Japan, JRescue is an emergency contact mobile application that enables people who were displaced by the earthquake to record a voice message on their phone, and send it automatically to family and to friends.

JRescue lets people add GPS data to help loved ones find each other and include photos and video. It also provides search functionality to make it easier to track down missing friends and family.

Developed and deployed in just a matter of days, JRescue was used by more than 15,000 people to find each other, certainly a critical need during a time when thousands of people are still listed as missing.

Another example is the work we’re doing with Toyota, who’s a very important partner to Microsoft. Together, we’re helping create new maps of passable roads in northern Japan, where can people access water, food, gas, medicine. Those things have all been severely hampered, as you know, by damage to the region’s transportation, information infrastructure.

Cloud computing also improves efficiency, lowers the demand for energy and power, and supports business continuity. All of these things are critically important for business right now, given the damage to Japan’s power grid and in particular for manufacturers in east Japan where operations have been significantly impacted, as you know, by power outages.

Studies have shown that when business applications move from corporate datacenters to the cloud, energy use can be reduced by at least 30 percent — 30 percent. For small businesses the result is even more dramatic, with potential savings of up to 90 percent.

Clearly, cloud computing is a great platform to build and deploy applications and services quickly and efficiently in the wake of a disaster.

However, it is much more than that. It’s also a platform for innovation and for progress.

As I said earlier, technology will fuel Japan’s transition to a new period of growth and prosperity. Information technology is one of the keys.

Just last month, Mr. Akio Toyoda, the president of Toyota Motor Corporation, and I, announced the formation of a new joint investment company for 1 billion yen to build a global platform for next-generation applications for in-car communications, GPS, and other information systems. These applications will be built on Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud computing infrastructure.

As a result of the partnership with Toyota, starting next year, people who buy an electric car or a plug-in hybrid from Toyota will be able to connect to their car’s information system via the cloud from anywhere, safely and conveniently.

This means that on a hot day you’ll be able to turn on the air conditioning from your phone before you return to your vehicle. When you’re on the road, you can dynamically monitor how far it is to the next charging station right from your GPS system.

By using the Windows Azure platform and taking advantage of cloud computing, Toyota will be able to deliver these new applications and services in all 170 of the countries where Toyota cars are sold.

And Toyota will be able to scale quickly as demand rises and do it efficiently and easily while only paying for the computing power its customers actually use.

Beyond just scale and efficiency for businesses and organizations, we think about the cloud as a platform for building experiences that are not limited by distance or device. We’re dreaming about how to build experiences where people can enjoy and connect with each other, and the groups that they care about in the ways that are most natural to them.

To realize this dream, we’re developing a wide range of devices and services. To start, Microsoft has deep partnerships with leading hardware designers to deliver a variety of experiences across an incredible range of PC, phones, and other mobile devices.

In fact, last January, we announced that the next version of Windows will support the next generation chip technologies, so-called systems-on-chip, from Intel, from AMD, from Qualcomm, from TI, and from NVIDIA, a range of ARM processor vendors.

So, whatever device you use now or in the future, Windows will be there. And over time, we’ll start to see these devices get better and better at predicting what people are trying to accomplish, and they will utilize more natural ways to anticipate and to interact with all of us as individuals.

People are just starting to experience these new forms of more natural interaction with products like Microsoft’s own Xbox Kinect. Kinect is basically a sensor that turns you, your body, yourself into the controller for your television set. It listens to your voice, it tracks your movement, your gestures, the waves of your arm. So, when you’re playing a videogame, if you jump, which I don’t think I’m going to do right here, your on-screen character jumps. If you want to select a movie to watch, just wave your hand, and the movie selections will scroll by on the TV screen. No remote, no controller, no training necessary.

While we’re currently using these advances for entertainment, we’ll bring this technology into business, science, education, and medical industries by connecting it to Windows PCs, Windows Phones, and other devices.

There are so many amazing opportunities to transform how we use technology by removing learning and access boundaries created when people are forced to any single mode of interacting with the computer.

There’s also a significant opportunity to enhance communications and productivity. We’ll build from the foundation of e-mail and text messages to richer experiences. Talking to friends and colleagues around the world will become as seamless as talking to them across the kitchen table or in a conference room.

Microsoft and our partners will bring together what people want: data, voice, video, instant messaging, all on a single screen, whether it’s a phone, PC, or TV.

That’s why earlier this month, we announced the acquisition of Skype. Microsoft and Skype, we think we have a real foundation to define the future of communications.

Also later this year, we’ll launch our new version of Office, Microsoft Office 365, which is the Microsoft Office cloud service. With Office 365 organizations of all sizes, from a sole proprietor to corporations with hundreds of thousands of people, will simply pay a monthly fee to access all of the communications and productivity and collaboration tools they might ever want.

Technologies like these and many others have the potential not only to help Japan’s businesses recover, but help be the foundation for a new wave of startups and a new wave of productivity enhancement, which is important as countries’ populations hit a limit, and we need to let all members of society be able to contribute most effectively in their own walk of life.

Earlier, I said Microsoft is committed to both assisting with relief efforts and contributing for the long term work of recovery. We’re also committed to working with you to deliver new innovations, pioneer new business models, and enter new markets.

Our ties here in Japan are very strong. Our partnerships and relationships span many years. And it has certainly been heartbreaking — heartbreaking to see the tragic aftermath of the devastating disaster. It has certainly also been very uplifting and moving to witness the outpouring of care and compassion here in Japan, and to watch as the people of Japan have come together to support each other and begin to rebuild.

I get asked, you know, what’s your long term view of Japan. I have no doubt that Japan will recover, Japan will emerge stronger and better. I have no doubt that Japan’s productivity will continue to increase, despite aging populations and all of the rest. And I certainly see no doubt that at least for Microsoft, other than the U.S., this will be the best market for information technology because of a focus on productivity, a respect for intellectual property that makes this an incredibly special place.

Microsoft is honored to stand with you in the recovery effort, and we look forward to working with everyone as we seize these opportunities ahead.

Thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)