Zwischen Vision und dem Elend des Alltags: Steve Ballmer auf der CeBIT 2008

Steve Ballmer auf der CeBIT 2008 • Foto: Jochen Lübke, dpaMicrosoft Presspass, die Presse-Website der Microsoft Corp., registriert üblicherweise die öffentlichen Auftritte von CEO Steve Ballmer sehr penibel. Und wenn jemand wie Bill Gates oder Ballmer eine Grundsatzrede hält, wird sonst eigentlich dort der Wortlaut veröffentlicht. Ballmers Vortrag zur „Fünften Computer-Revolution“ auf der Computermesse CeBIT 2008 in Hannover scheint seine PR-Leute in Redmond aber wenig zu interessieren, obwohl sich Ballmer hier erstmals in der Rolle des Visionärs präsentiert hat, die sonst von Gates eingenommen wurde.

Zumindest auf Microsoft Presspass findet man dazu kein Wort. Ich nehme mir deshalb die Freiheit, das Manuskript der Ballmer-Rede hier zu dokumentieren, das auch bis auf wenige kleinere Abweichungen dem gesprochenen Text auf der CeBIT-Eröffnungsfeier entsprach.

Ballmer musste nach seinem Auftritt auf der CeBIT wieder schnell in die USA zurück und gab nur den Tagesthemen ein kurzes Interview. Zum Ärger der Microsoft-Leute ignorierte TT-Moderator Tom Buhrow in dem Gespräch das Thema „Visionen“ komplett. Zunächst provozierte Buhrow seinen Interview-Gast mit der Bemerkung, das in Hannover präsentierte „Microsoft Surface“ sei doch nur ein größeres Touchpad. Dann löcherte er den Microsoft-CEO mit Fragen zur geplanten Yahoo-Übernahme und dem Strafgeld der EU. Und Ballmer blieb nichts anderes übrig, als zu lächeln.

[Microsoft-Chef Ballmer präsentiert sich als Visionär – WELT ONLINE]

The Fifth Revolution
by Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO

(Keynote Script)

Chancellor Merkel, President Sarkozy, President Barroso, Prime Minister Wulf, Professor Scheer, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen – It is truly an honor to be invited to speak here. CeBIT is one of the world’s most important technology events. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people from around the globe converge in Hannover to learn about the future of technology and the new opportunities that it will create.

The last time I spoke here was in 2002. In that speech I mentioned that I’d been at Microsoft for 22 years and lived through three computing revolutions. Now six years later, I’ve been at Microsoft for 28 years, and I can say that I’ve lived through four.

That’s four revolutions in 28 years. Just about one every seven years or so.

During the first revolution, the personal computer became an affordable, mainstream product. This revolution put computing power in the hands of individuals for the first time.

The second revolution saw the emergence of the graphical user interface. That made it much easier for people to take advantage of the power of computing.

Revolution number three saw the rise of the Internet. During this revolution, email became an everyday communications tool and information became dramatically easier to find and share. We also gave computers the ability to talk to each other directly, which allowed us to start to automate a lot of business processes: a revolution by itself.

Revolution number four was just starting in 2002. Let’s call it the “Web 2.0 revolution” since that’s the name commonly used to describe it. During this revolution, the Web has evolved from static pages and information to become a platform for services, and for publishing and sharing information.

If this 7-year pattern holds true, we should be at the end of revolution number four and the beginning of a fifth revolution. And . . . if you look at what’s going on in the industry and in the marketplace, that’s exactly what’s happening.

So today, I’d like to share my thoughts about the fifth computing revolution . . . the trends that are shaping it and the impact it will have on our lives and our businesses.

The fifth computing revolution

Let me begin by describing the trends that will make this new revolution possible. The first–is the hardware advances that are putting more and more processing power into smaller and smaller devices.

The second trend is significantly expanded storage on PCs and devices of all sizes, and in massive datacenters around the world.

A third key trend is the availability of wireless broadband networks everywhere, because it will allow us to tap into all that processing power and storage wherever we go.

Two other trends will play a critical role in the next seven years. One is natural user interfaces. Today, we have applications that can identify spoken and written words with great accuracy—and we’re starting to see the emergence of interfaces that are driven by touch and gestures.

Over time, interacting with computers will be more and more like interacting with people. We’ll still use a keyboard and a mouse when it’s most efficient. But at other times, you’ll tell your device what you want it to do, or simply use a wave of your hand.

Natural UI has been an important focus for Microsoft for a long time. A really long time. So I’m excited to see these incredible capabilities finally coming to fruition.

The last key trend is in displays. The screens and projection devices we use every day are getting cheaper and lighter. By the time the fifth revolution ends—in about 2015 or so—high-definition screens will be everywhere. Instead of devices being tied to built-in screens, we’ll simply link our devices to a nearby display, or project information onto whatever surface is handy.

These are the raw ingredients of the fifth revolution: expanded processing power, huge amounts of storage, ubiquitous broadband, natural UI and screens everywhere. Together, these five ingredients will change almost everything we do.

So what will the world look like in 2015? I think the best way to understand the changes is to think of them in three areas: personal empowerment, social interaction and global issues.

Personal empowerment

Let’s start with personal empowerment.

Today, we use computing in more and more places all the time—in the office and the home, of course. And increasingly, in cars, stores, restaurants, and public spaces. Now you can get directions and road conditions while you’re driving, you can figure out which nearby restaurant has the best menu for your appetite and budget, or you can find a spot to just sit down and catch up on email.

But it’s still a little too complicated. A little too disconnected. Think about how hard it is to synchronize all your devices and information: your calendar, contacts, music, and documents—to your work and your home PCs, to your mobile phone and your portable media device. It’s certainly possible, but let’s just say it involves a high degree of difficulty.

During the fifth revolution, this will change. Soon, you’ll be able to call up any document, photo, or media file you’ve created or saved instantly on whatever device is at hand. You won’t need to know where your information stored. It won’t matter what device you’re using. You’ll just log on, click, and instantly get access.

This will be true for all forms of entertainment and information. In fact, during the next revolution, virtually all data, all content, and all media will be digitized: books, historical documents, government records, movies and TV shows, magazines and newspaper . . . everything, all instantly accessible and automatically tailored to the device you’re using.

Software and services will be instantly accessible, too. Your calendar, email, and productivity applications you need for work, and the games and entertainment software you use for fun. If you need some new capability—some new piece of software—you’ll just click, download, and access it instantly.

The same thing will be true for communication. With a single click, you’ll be able to reach people instantly, no matter where you are. Of course, you’ll also have control over who can reach you, and how. When you’re busy, software will know whether to interrupt you, based on what you’re doing and who’s trying to reach you.

Communications will also move seamlessly between voice, text, and video, and from device to device. At work, imagine a scenario where you start an email exchange with a colleague, then switch to voice on your mobile phone as you walk to a meeting. Once you arrive, that conversation merges automatically into the videoconference that is already underway.

At home, you might start with a phone call to a friend, then transfer the conversation to your video game console as the two of you fire up a racing game. Meanwhile, you contact other friends via instant messaging through your game console. With screens everywhere and ubiquitous connectivity, they can join in no matter where they are.

To help tie this all together, we’ll have a single “digital identity” for all our communications. Today, in order to contact someone, we often have to know their phone numbers for work, home, their mobile device, plus multiple email addresses and identities for instant messaging. Tomorrow, all you’ll need is a name. The software will automatically know who you want to reach and the best way to reach them, based on context.

As devices become more powerful, more connected, and easier to use, they’ll also become smarter and more helpful. When I got ready for this trip to Hanover, my computer wasn’t much help. My executive assistant still had to arrange my travel, organize my documents, update me on who I’m meeting, etc. It would’ve been great if I simply could’ve said to my computer, “I’m going to Hanover next Monday, returning on Wednesday. Make airplane and hotel reservations and organize the information I’ll need” –and have it take care of the arrangements.

During the fifth revolution, software will begin to learn your habits, understand your preferences, and predict your needs. It’ll know what time of day you prefer to fly and what hotels you usually stay in. It’ll know who you’re going to meet and what topics you’ll discuss. When you sit down at your computer to start the day, the information you need will be waiting. Your computer will also know what kind of entertainment you enjoy, and it will scan the Internet to find movies, sporting events, music, lectures, books, and games that interest you. If you think about it, your computer already has a lot of this information. During the fifth revolution, we’ll teach the computer how to use it.

Social interaction

Beyond “personal empowerment,” the next seven years will also bring about profound change in how we think about social interaction.

This process is already underway. Everyone is familiar with social Web sites like MySpace and Facebook, but I recently saw a survey that really brought home how much young people have embraced online social networking. According to an MTV study, people in their late teens and early 20s have an average of 53 friends. Twenty of those friends are people they’ve never met in person. That means 40 percent of their friendships are with people they only know through e-mail, instant messaging, and social Web sites.

Clearly, digital technology is becoming an important part of how we connect with people. Already, it’s easy to find a group online that shares your interest in a specific topic. As bandwidth expands and processing power increases, interacting with these people will be more and more like talking with them in person.

This will be important at work, as virtual meetings become more like meeting people face to face. The truth is that right now, everybody hates videoconferencing. It’s hard to set up. It’s stilted and unnatural. But new ways of facilitating interaction between people in different locations are emerging. In the years ahead, amazing innovations like 3-D holographs will make it feel like someone on the other side of the globe is in the same room with you. In fact, this technology already exists. During the fifth revolution, it’ll become more affordable and more accessible.

Preserving and sharing memories of our experiences is another aspect of social interaction that will be transformed. As storage and bandwidth expands, we’ll preserve more of our day-to-day experiences in digital form. Already, we record lots of events and memories through digital photography and video. But mostly, they get filed away, never to be seen again. Soon it will be easy to retrieve the record of any experience–from images of your child’s birthday party to the complete video and audio record, plus slides, of a business meeting that occurred years before.

The revolution in social interaction is about more than staying in touch with university friends, or sharing your excitement for your favorite sports team with other fans. Online community is transforming the way we shape the societies we live in, too.

As parents, the trends driving the fifth revolution will enable us to form tight communities with teachers, administrators, other parents, and our children, so we can work together to provide our kids with a great education. As citizens, it’ll give us new ways to share ideas and participate in the political process. We’re already seeing this today in the U.S. presidential campaign, where online communities are an essential part of how people support their candidates and push for their agenda.

And as business people, greater processing power, expanded storage, better bandwidth, natural UI, and cheap, affordable displays will provide new opportunities to learn about customers and match our products and messages to their needs and desires.

Global issues

But the fifth revolution will do more than just enrich our lives through personal empowerment and social interaction—it will give us the ability to better understand and address global issues that affect billions of people, including education, healthcare, and environmental change.

In education, the combination of processing power, storage, broadband networks, natural UI, and ubiquitous screens will play a vital role. Today, nearly 400 million children can’t attend school. Hundreds of millions who do aren’t getting an education that prepares them for adulthood.

Addressing these shortfalls is critical. But we face huge challenges—overcrowded schools, outdated teaching methods, and a global shortage of qualified teachers.
At the heart of these issues is the problem of scale. Today, there are classrooms around the world where brilliant teachers deliver innovative and exciting curriculum. The challenge is to extend that kind of quality education from a handful of students in a single classroom to hundreds of millions of students around the globe.
Technology can help us tackle the challenge of scale. The combination of software, broadband networks and powerful, affordable devices lets us put high-quality educational resources into the hands of any teacher or student who has access to basic digital technology. This is already starting to happen. One example is MIT’s OpenCourseware Initiative, which provides free access to material used in more than 1,800 MIT classes. Now any student with access to the Internet, anywhere in the world, no matter how rich or poor, can study the same material as the students at one of the world’s elite universities. This is just a hint of how technology can quickly scale high-quality resources in order to provide a great education to millions more young people.
Processing power, storage, broadband networks, natural UI, and screens everywhere will also help us address issues of scale in healthcare. In countries where access to doctors is limited, a physician’s assistant will be able to use a mobile phone linked to a cheap display to consult doctors in a hospital hundreds of miles away. Using video and voice, and by transmitting information about things like blood pressure and temperature, they’ll be able to provide a clear picture of a patient’s condition and history and get world-class treatment information.

In addition, technology will make healthcare more efficient, effective, and affordable. Electronic health records will streamline the flow of health information and enable physicians to practice medicine based on the latest knowledge of safe and effective treatments. Better access to healthcare information will enable patients and doctors to focus on better treatment as well as prevention.

Finally, the combination of processing power, storage, broadband networks, natural UI, and ubiquitous screens will help us tackle climate change. There’s no question that we all need to work together to reduce greenhouse gasses and use natural resources more efficiently. Software will play a vital role in the innovations that help us achieve new levels of energy efficiency in every aspect of our lives.

Software will make our homes and buildings more intelligent, so we use only the energy we need for lighting, heating, and cooling. It’ll enable businesses to redesign products and processes to use less energy and fewer natural resources. High-performance computing will help researchers understand the effects of climate change and mitigate its impacts.

Addressing global warming is a responsibility we take very seriously at Microsoft. Although we’re not a major manufacturer, with 1 billion customers and 80,000 employees, we have a big role to play in driving environmental sustainability. Today, for example, we operate a commuter bus system at our Redmond headquarters which reduces the amount that Microsoft employees drive each day by more than 40,000 kilometers. At our Mountain View Campus in California and Thames Valley Park office in the UK, we use 100 percent renewable energy sources. And one of our largest datacenters runs entirely on hydro power.

But this issue cuts across the industry and requires coordinated efforts by the public and private sectors. Right now we’re working with a broad range of companies and organizations in efforts like the Climate Savers Computing Initiative and Green Grid to improve the energy efficiency of computers and minimize the environmental footprint of the computing industry.

We’re also doing pioneering work to cut down on datacenter power consumption. Our goal is to reduce our own footprint, and then share documentation, guidance, and technology with customers, partners, and even competitors to help create a new generation of datacenters that are significantly more efficient.

In addition, we’re adding features that support sustainability and energy efficiency to many of our own products. And we’re partnering with customers around the world on innovative solutions that drive energy efficiency. For example, here in Germany, we’re working with Yellostrom, a leading electricity supplier, on an online service that lets customers see real-time information about household electricity consumption. In a pilot rollout to about 1,000 households, homeowners have used this information to cut energy consumption by as much as 10 percent, without any noticeable difference in comfort.

Finally, we’re collaborating with the global scientific community—working with scientists to simulate, analyze, and predict the behavior of complex systems from global climate patterns to the properties of subatomic particles. This critical connection between science and computing cannot be overstated, as it holds the key to tackling some of the most urgent challenges facing humanity today.

In my 28 years at Microsoft, I’ve lived through four computing revolutions. And – as important as they’ve been, I believe that they’ve simply been a foundation for the much more profound changes to come in the next revolution. During the fifth revolution, expanded processing, huge amounts of storage, ubiquitous broadband, natural UI and screens everywhere will help us address global warming, and improve healthcare and education for billions of people around the world. It will transform human social interaction and make computers more useful and more personal. Access to the information, communications and computing capabilities will be seamless and natural.

As computing continues to become more powerful, more affordable and more connected, it will not only enable those of us who live in places like Hannover and Seattle to lead better lives, it will give billions more people around the world a chance to take advantage of incredible new social and economic opportunities so they can lead better lives, too—

—and that, will truly be revolutionary.

Thank you.

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