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Jun 4, 2008

Ballmer: Software Makers Face Big Challenges

Grant Gross, IDG News Service

Tuesday, June 03, 2008 7:40 PM PDT

Improvements in processing speeds, storage space and wireless broadband will drive a new revolution in information technology, but software makers face several challenges in their efforts to keep up, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said Tuesday.

Software makers need to create better natural interfaces, simplify programming tools and create better search and analytical tools for computer users, Ballmer told a crowd of about 700 people at the American Electronics Association's annual technology for government dinner in Washington, D.C.

Ballmer told the crowd he was optimistic that a new computer revolution would happen in the next 10 years, but he also ticked off a series of challenges for the IT sector.

Computers contain massive amounts of information about their users, but they still don't anticipate their users' needs, Ballmer said. That's where better natural interfaces can help.

"You want your computer to not only understand your words, but start to remember things about you and your intent," he said. "'Get me ready for my trip to Washington, D.C.' My computer knows absolutely everything my secretary does, but my secretary does a better job on that problem today."

Part of the problem is that search technologies haven't changed much in the last five years, Ballmer said.

"Your ability to find and analyze information will go up in orders of magnitude," he said. "Really searching deeply, picking up information and being able to assemble it is still pretty hard to do."

Ballmer also suggested that software development is still too complex, and integrating separate computer systems still too difficult. The complexity of software development is still the "bane" of the IT industry, he said.

Ballmer envisioned a near future where he could be watching television in a hotel room halfway across the world from Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and connect instantly to Gates to point out a pivotal moment in a televised sports event. Ballmer could say, "Bill, did you see Tiger [Woods] make that putt," and his computer would automatically connect him to Gates and they could watch the putt together. If Gates wondered what brand of golf ball Woods was using, Ballmer could capture the image on the screen, search for matching images online and order two dozen balls for the two of them.

When audience members chuckled, Ballmer responded, "We're not that far away."...

Ed: Mr. Ballmer replacing Mr. Gates as the visionary? Not likely.

  • Mr. Ballmer continues to focus on PC-centric world. Cloud-computing is the future.
  • Artificial Intelligence to infer services for users - Mr. Ballmer has not studied AI with its roots at MIT and Carnegie. 10 years to deliver true intelligence may not be enough. AI is a 30 year old problem that is progressing at glacial pace.
  • Yes, integration is a nightmare. Cross browser, platform, domain, and layers ... it's insane. Microsoft has been the legacy that created the problem.

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