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Microsoft's Ballmer: "I See Nothing But Opportunity"

Remarks Made at Partner Conference in Minneapolis

Steve Ballmer presented a lengthy keynote and partner session at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Minneapolis. Below is the complete transcript of the session.



Steve Ballmer

It is my honor, privilege, excitement, to be here with you today. For all the things I do -- and many of you have had a chance to hear this many times as I travel the world -- but everything I get to do working for Microsoft, there's one thing that's most energizing for me -- one thing, one thing -- meeting with our partners. And you say, this guy gives this line to every audience he meets with. Nooo.

What's special about this group? What gets me particularly pumped up? What is particularly exciting? Our partners are a unique blend, you are, of two elements. Number one, you've made a bet on us. You believe in us, you want us to win, you need us to win. You're kind of like employees in that regard. But our employees are a little bit more captive. You have other options -- every -- our employees do, too -- but you do -- every minute of every day there's somebody coming to you saying, Hey, we've got a better mousetrap; Hey, we've got a better idea. There's a customer out there beating you out with somebody else's technology. And so every day you're in a position where you're rooting for us, and every day you come to work you give us feedback, critical feedback, important feedback. What about this, Microsoft? What about this? What about this? You need to improve this? What about this? What about this? What about this? What about this?

I find our partner audience the most challenging audience I get to deal with. Our employees have had a little bit too much in the backwater, and our customers aren't quite deeply enough bent on us the way our partners are. So meeting with our partners and getting a chance to hear what's on your mind, what you're thinking about, what your concerns are, your issues -- for me is absolutely, positively energizing.

I am [email protected]. I will get 100 pieces of e-mail as a result of that statement. I love each and every one of them, and there will probably be 90 brilliant insights, five pieces of mail I don't really understand --  and five pieces of mail that just says, that was the worse piece I've ever heard. But, nonetheless, we want to hear from you and we want to hear you push us, push us, push us every day to improve -- to improve, to improve, because with our improvement you improve; and, with your improvement, we improve.

So having this real healthy interaction between you and us is so critical -- so, so critical.

The second thing I want to say, since we're in the process of finishing up our financial year -- but I saw some early numbers -- not that I could comment on them, because if I did you'd all be insiders. So I'm not going to tell you what things look like. But I'll tell you they are not bad. (Applause, cheers.) Which means I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

We make 97, 98 percent of our revenue with partners, through partners -- whether it's reselling, partner service, partner training, partners ISV partners -- partners, partners, partners. I'm not going to run through the whole partners program. So every year that's a good year for us in a sense means it's been a good year for you, and you've driven it to be a good year for us. So I do say thanks so much. You do have choices. Every day you can come to work and you make precious investments of your time and your people's time and energy in our technologies and in our product line, and with our people and in our partner program. And the value of that to us is immeasurable.

You know, when this business got started, Microsoft got started, we made the decision then that we would be specializing somehow. This company wasn't going to look like IBM -- hardware, software, services -- everything under the sun. We decided to specialize in certain fields. And we're sitting here 30 years later, and some of you will say, well, geez, you're in a lot more fields than you were a few years ago. And that's certainly the case. But we still maintain a fairly straight-line focus. We are not in the customer services business. We are not in the reselling business. We respect our partnerships. We value our partnerships. We need our partnerships.

So I say again thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, and maybe one more time, thank you. (Applause.)

The Next 10 Years

Okay, but this is a partner meeting. That was last year. Now the question is: How about next year? And the year after, and the year after that? Because in a sense your bet -- you need to be forward looking. Whether it's us or some other vendor or some other company, you're asking yourself what's coming in the next year, three years, five years, seven years. Is my investment, is my time with these guys still well placed? Are they going to drive technology forward? Are they going to bring good innovations to market? Are they going to work with me? Are they going to change the world? Perhaps most importantly: Are you guys going to win? You want to bet with people who are going to win. You win if we win; we win if you win. And so I know every one of you comes to a meeting like this, determined to assess that question: Is this a company that's going to lead? Is this a company that's going to win? And I can't answer that for you. You answer those questions yourself. I answer it for myself every day. I come to work, and I'm excited and I'm enthusiastic. And I can't believe what a fantastic job I have and opportunity that Microsoft has. And I can't be more excited about what we're doing. But you will make these judgments and assessments yourself.

I look out the next 10 years, and I see nothing but opportunity -- opportunity everywhere we look -- opportunity. Ask yourself this question: Do you believe the world technologically is going to look pretty much the same five or 10 years from now, or do you think it's going to look quite different? If you think it's going to look quite different, raise your hand. If you think it's going to look the same, raise your hand.  I kind of made that impossible to put your hand up on, but nonetheless, I really was interested.

The world will change more in the next 10 years, I predict, than even the last 10 years. Ten years ago was kind of a momentous for us. Ten years ago was Windows 95. Ten years ago was Internet Explorer Version 1.0. Ten years ago, most people in the world did not have a PC. Ten years ago, most people in the world did not have a mobile phone. Ten years ago, most people didn't know what the Internet was, let alone whether they needed to connect narrow band or broadband -- and what the heck was a virus anyway? That was the world 10 years ago. And yet I predict 10 years from now the world will be more different than it is today versus 10 years ago. The advance of technology, the innovations that are coming to market, will really blow our minds. We've barely as an industry begun to exploit the power and potential on the Internet. We still have user interfaces that work like computers -- they don't work like us. I still can't talk to my computer, have it recognize my voice, my meaning, my intent. All of that will happen in the next 10 years. Moore's Law continues. It's not being translated into additional processing power in quite as straightforward a way it was for the last 10 years, but Moore's Law continues -- communication, storage -- everything continues to get less expensive.


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.NETDJ News Desk monitors Microsoft .NET and its related technologies, including Silverlight, to present IT professionals with news, updates on technology advances, business trends, new products and standards, and insight.

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.NETDJ News Desk 07/10/05 08:37:50 PM EDT

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer delivered a keynote speech and hosted a partner session at the Microsoft Wordlwide Partner Conference in Seattle, during which he looked back over the past decade, noted how far the industry has come, and discussed the past, present, and future with a number of Microsoft partners.

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