Ballmer: IT can change the world

Ballmer: IT can change the world

There will be more change and innovation in IT in the next 10 years than in the past decade, said Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer in a speech at the company's Tech Ed event in San Diego.

Although budget constraints and security challenges will continue to strain IT departments, change in the coming years will affect society more than the advent of PCs, broadband and cell phones in the past years, Ballmer told an audience of IT developers and professionals.

"I think the next 10 years will bring more positive change and innovation than in the last 10 years," Ballmer said. He listed natural language, artificial intelligence, improved search, mobility and interoperability as main areas of innovation. "We have a chance, all of us in this room, to change the world in a positive way," he said.

Ballmer told the audience that IT is probably the top transformer of society today, in addition to health care and education. Microsoft announced some advances in its developer tools to help the audience change the world. None of these, however, had been unexpected.

Demonstrated on stage were Visual Studio 2005 Team System, Web Services Enhancements (WSE) 2.0 and a technical preview of the Office Information Bridge Framework.

Visual Studio 2005 Team System is an expansion to Microsoft's developer tools to allow all members of an IT organisation to work together. It is due out together with Visual Studio 2005, also known by its Whidbey code name, in the first half of next year.

Available immediately, WSE 2.0 is an add-on to Visual Studio .net to help developers create and work with web services that have been secured using the latest web services protocol specifications.

The Office Information Bridge Framework is a set of tools to help developers bring web services into Office products such as Word and Outlook.

While Microsoft previously had used similar events to evangelise .net and web services, Ballmer's speech showed that .net and web services have now been accepted, said Peter Pawlak, a lead analyst at Directions on Microsoft, an independent research firm.

"Microsoft's bet on .net and web services has been the right bet," he said.

Ballmer in his speech said over half of developers in the US now use its .net developer tools. He also trumpeted Microsoft's work to create open web services standards, citing work with IBM and others as well as standards organisations.
"Our company has made a greater investment in interoperability over the last four, five years than people ever give us credit for," he said.

The demonstrations of the new tools were impressive, but the demonstrators clicked through their screens too fast for attendees to follow, said Chad Layman, a corporate systems integrator at SM&P Utility Resources. Layman enjoyed Ballmer's overview, but said there wasn't much for him to take home and start working on.

Despite his upbeat talk of IT as a world-changing force over the next decade, Ballmer said IT departments will continue to face budget constraints and security problems. If security is not addressed confidence in IT could be lost, which would be devastating, according to Ballmer.

Microsoft did not release an anticipated beta of Visual Studio 2005. A company official, however, hinted that the beta might be released at the end of June at Tech Ed Europe in Amsterdam.

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service

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