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CoDe Talks: Q&A with Steve Ballmer : Page 2

From offshoring and open source to the Tablet PC and the promise of Longhorn, it's always enlightening to hear a few candid remarks about the state of the industry from the CEO of Microsoft. Steve Ballmer spoke to CoDe Magazine Publisher, Markus Egger via email about these subjects and several others.




Building the Right Environment to Support AI, Machine Learning and Deep Learning

The Next Big Thing
CoDe: Aside from obvious advancements such as the upcoming Windows "Longhorn" release, what is the "next big thing in technology" for Microsoft? Ballmer: From our perspective, the "big bet" we're making is integrated innovation. No other company is investing for the long term as we are on delivering truly integrated solutions—technology that "just simply works" for customers and which addresses key customer issues and pain points such as manageability, ease of use, security, and so on. Integrated innovation is about a customer experience where using Microsoft products together gives you a "whole" that is far greater than the sum of the parts. For Microsoft, this is truly a cross-company effort. It will take the server and client operating systems to deliver great usability and manageability features. It will take applications that deliver compelling scenarios and extend our platform's value. It will take excellent tools that developers and ISVs can use to easily and quickly build new applications. And it will take integration across the Windows client and Windows Server System to comprehensively address the issues that customers care most about—like manageability, ease of use and security.

CoDe: In the world of software development, one topic that seems to be ever-present and ever-controversial is that of development methodologies. Anything from the Rational Unified Process to Extreme Programming (XP) seems to be hyped as the next silver bullet for the modern way to build better applications. In the past, Microsoft appears to have been somewhat tight-lipped about the subject. Now, Visual Studio 2005 Team System has been announced, which seems to be a comprehensive and flexible lifecycle tool. However, due to the systems flexibility, it does not make a strong statement about any particular approach. Is there a unified strategy within Microsoft for Software Lifecycle Management? Do you think standards and processes followed by Microsoft are valuable for companies of much smaller size? How does Visual Studio 2005 Team System fit into all of this? Ballmer: First, the Team System absolutely includes development methodologies. We will actually include two methodologies in the product: a "formal" methodology for large teams and those who want good, rigid processes, and an "agile" methodology patterned after Agile and Extreme Programming principles. Of course, the methodologies themselves are fully customizable, so that companies and partners can tailor and extend the methodologies for their own needs.

As for Microsoft's own methodologies, we do follow many of the principles espoused by our commercial methodologies (security testing, code reviews, unit testing, etc). But just like our customers, our individual product teams tailor their methodologies to account for a number of factors, including size, scope, and sophistication of the project, experience of the team, duration of the project, and more. There are many variables that go into a software project and, as we've learned at Microsoft, no single methodology is suited for all teams and all projects. This is where we think our approach is more appropriate for the industry: rather than building a tool around a rigid, inflexible methodology, we've taken a more flexible approach that lets customers adapt the tool and processes for their needs. CoDe: What companion devices or other computerized devices are you using? PocketPC? DVR? Smartphone? Car computer? MSN Direct watch? Do you still take your TabletPC everywhere you go? When do you think that these devices will become so prevalent that they will surpass PCs (and PC-based technologies) in number of devices sold?

Ballmer: I love my Pocket PC and I use my Tablet PC constantly. Smartphones may eventually surpass the number of PCs, but PC growth is far from over. Today there are some 600 million personal computers around the world. By 2010, we estimate the number will grow to one billion. So there's huge, huge opportunity across the range of devices. We are, as you noted, also doing some great things with Windows Automotive. Microsoft technology is currently in 23 car lines from 12 different automakers. And MSN Direct is a specialized wireless service that delivers personalized information—news, weather, sports, stocks, personal messages, appointment reminders, and more—through Smart Watches. CoDe: Has the adoption rate of TabletPCs been up to your expectations? It seems that TabletPCs have gained popularity in the developer community. What are your predictions for the future?

Ballmer: We've seen early success with the Tablet PC in a number of key industries, including health care, financial services, and education. The consumer market is starting to take off too. Recently developments give me confidence that most mobile PCs will have Tablet functionality—pen and ink as a natural input—in the coming years. We just launched Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005, and we've received great feedback on the improvements we've made in usability and our handwriting recognition technologies. And we're starting to see the price difference fall dramatically between Tablet PCs and notebooks. Averatec recently introduced a consumer oriented Tablet PC at about $1,300 that is selling very well, and we see this as a significant step to making Tablet PCs more accessible to consumers and students. You're absolutely right about the interest and traction we are seeing in the developer community, and we are very excited about that. As you know, it's developers that drive the platform. Today we estimate that more than 400 ISVs are working with our Tablet software development kit, and close to 100,000 developers are using the platform in some way. In addition, there are several vibrant online developer communities like DevX and TabletPCPost.com, where you can download more than 100 Tablet applications today. We're also seeing a slew of component vendors, like Infragistics, leveraging ink in their products. Overall, we've seen a great increase in the number of tablet applications coming to market now, and we expect to see this trend continue as the community continues to realize that Tablet PCs are fully functioning mobile PCs with additional capabilities.

CoDe: If you had to bet on either TabletPC or Smartphone as being the best platform for a relatively experienced software developer to spend their time focusing on for the next 3-4 years, which one would you choose and why? Ballmer: Fortunately we don't have to choose between two really wonderful opportunities. Both platforms have a tremendous future.

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