Just back from about an hour's roundtable talk with Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft. No matter how many times I've heard him speak, I'm always startled by how LOUD he is in real life...
Anyway, for your delectation (or something like that), a few snippets from his comments and answers to Irish journalists' queries (offered without comment!):
* "Our commitment to being here in Ireland is very strong". It is the largest concentration of Microsoft employees (1800) outside Redmond, he said. However he noted that China and India pose a challenge to Ireland for investment, more so than Eastern European countries, because of the skill sets of potential employees, English language ability, costs etc. India in particular is competitive with Ireland, he said. The recent loss of 15 .NET jobs (see below) is nothing except making operations more "efficient" and does not signal a loss of confidence in operations here or a shift in MS policy towards Ireland.
* Ireland is to be the disaster recovery centre for Microsoft's corporate data centre -- everything except Microsoft.com and MSN.com, he said.
* "Right now we are on the verge of the next revolution -- the XML revolution." Microsoft will blend XML with its .NET platform, he said. "We're bringing XML and .NET into our technologies as we speak."
* "We also know we have to be a responsible leader for our industry", keeping code accessible in some cases and sticking with Government regulations and clear accounting procedures. "We do believe over time that stock options should be on the income statement." But MS will not do this until a way of approaching this is agreed among technology partner and competitor companies, he said.
* executive rewards should also be clearly spelled out, Ballmer said. He noted that he and Gates do not take share options, whereas Larry Ellison takes 25 to 30 per cent of Oracle shares.
* Microsoft knows it has been "diminished" in some customers' eyes because of the way in which it introduced its new software licensing procedures, he said. It was "not a very good process".
* "Our own installed base is our greatest competitor," he said, noting that if new versions of software weren't compelling, people will not upgrade and revenue will drop for the company.
* "Linux is just a file system and a file manager."
* Regarding ASP models for selling software as a service: "My biggest dotcom folly was predicting that would happen overnight. But I do think the future of software is services."
* On the general economy: "I don't think things are falling anymore, but I think it will be a while before things pick up. The economy will improve, things will bottom out, and innovation [will help recovery].
* On whether there's enough innovation in the tech industry these days: "You gotta have something that people want to go buy. Maybe our industry could be a bit more innovative" to help spur economic recovery.
*On what kind of start-up he might create if he threw in the towel at Microsoft: "I don;t think like a start-up so it's hard for me to make [a suggestion about interesting start-up sectors]. We have to think about how to grow a $30 billion organisation. Start-ups look more at niches."
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According to a discussion at last night's Wireless Wednesday in Dublin, "warchalking" -- or identifying with (usually) chalked symbols where wireless networks are in operation to allow people to connect in to them -- is illegal in Ireland, due to some element of a regulation passed by the then-Dept of Public Enterprise a year ago. Will see if I can find out more.
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