Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer provided the keynote speech for the Massachusetts Software Council’s (MSC) annual fall membership meeting Wednesday, and used the forum to discuss how the company views Linux, as well as to address Longhorn delays and security concerns.
In the speech, given in front of an audience of more than 700 of the state’s technology community members, Ballmer covered much terrain, delving into the future of IT spending, and research and development directions. The speech was not entirely nonpromotional; Ballmer also talked about the benefits of Microsoft partnerships.
Joyce Plotkin, MSC president, told LinuxInsider that the group regularly brings such heavy hitters to its membership meetings, and that past speakers have included Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Ballmer was invited because Microsoft is a member of the local council, and reaction to his speech was predominantly positive. “Our members appreciated the opportunity to hear his view of the world,” said Plotkin.
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One of the largest components of Ballmer’s speech concerned Linux, which is not surprising given Microsoft’s increasing focus on the area. “Microsoft is realizing that they have to fight Linux on every front,” Yankee Group analyst Laura DiDio told LinuxInsider. She added that Ballmer has been especially vocal on the topic.
In the past, Ballmer has called Linux a “cancer,” but his remarks to the MSC were not so controversial. He emphasized Microsoft’s view that there is widespread misperception about the total cost of ownership of Windows as compared to Linux.
Plotkin noted that Ballmer’s decision to address the topic of Linux could be viewed as brave.
“Massachusetts is considered one of the centers for open source,” she said. “I thought it was important, and even courageous, for Ballmer to come to Massachusetts and address the issue head on.”
Another theme for Ballmer’s talk was security. “This is a big issue that Microsoft needs to address,” said Plotkin. “So I thought it made sense that he would touch on that.”
Ballmer included Linux in his security remarks, saying that open source would probably be attacked as frequently as Windows if it possessed similar market share.
“Whatever is popular is going to be attacked,” he said.
He also expressed an opinion that the open-source community lacked a defined process for addressing security concerns, unlike Microsoft, which devotes much attention and energy to patching vulnerabilities.
He added that the company has made security its top priority, saying that the issue affects Microsoft’s business as well as its quality control. Security comes up in customer conversations twice as much as any other topic, Ballmer said.
DiDio noted that security is a theme that Microsoft will have to cover often with users. As vulnerabilities are found in the company’s products, there should be more speeches like Ballmer’s.
“They know that they have to talk about security, and often,” said DiDio. “Users aren’t tired of the topic.”
A major topic during the speech was the future of technology, and Ballmer noted that he believes there will be many positive changes in the next 10 years. Specifically, he predicted that software advances would bring changes in communication that would boost productivity in many fields.
Not surprisingly, Ballmer said that Microsoft products would have a major role in the evolution of technology. Although he joked about feature cuts in Longhorn, as well as the product’s changing release date, Ballmer noted that the operating system would be key for bringing technology forward.
Other Microsoft promotion was apparent as Ballmer touted Microsoft’s ability to create products with a high degree of interoperability with other technology.
Plotkin noted that it did not sound like a sales pitch when Ballmer spoke about what the state’s companies could gain from an alliance with Microsoft.
“He was reaching out to this group to say this is what we offer, this is how we want to work with you,” she said. “We were delighted by what he had to say.”