Last month I was asked by Microsoft to attend an event in Chicago that featured their CEO Steve Ballmer. I really didn’t understand the details, but Chicago is a convenient train ride from the land of cheese, so I agreed. I rarely attend any events, vendor sponsored or otherwise. But I am glad I went to this one.
Steve Ballmer was speaking to the Executive Club of Chicago (or some such thing). There were 1,400 people there. After introducing each of the 20 people sitting at the head table with him he spoke for about 30 minutes. I tweeted his presentation live:
- Ballmer: we borrowed our way to prosperity, the next economic boom will be built on innovation and productivity.
- Ballmer: our job is to make the virtual world as good or better than the real world. In 10 years I want to speak to this group digitally.
- Ballmer: we spend about $9B a year on research and development.
- Ballmer: breakthroughs will come through modeling the physical world in the virtual world.
- Ballmer: …does a quick commercial for bing.com and encourages people “to click on one of the ads, otherwise we don’t make money.”
- Ballmer: In our industry people give up too soon. Windows took 5 years to catch on.
- Ballmer: I wish we would have seen the search business model. My one do-over is to start search business sooner. Will increase 8% share.
Let me say this about Steve Ballmer, he is not like you and me. I fancy myself a competent speaker with an ounce of charisma. Ballmer oozes charisma while coming off very genuine. While it was clear he has a few talking points that he would back to (primarily creating buzz regarding bing.com), he spoke eloquently without notes and without sounding rehearsed. He is what you would expect at the top of one of the world’s largest corporations.
After the luncheon I was invited to Microsoft’s Chicago offices for a CIO forum. I knew Ballmer would be there, but little else. When I arrived I was escorted to a small conference room with 5 other mid-market CIOs. We stood around and mingled, then Ballmer walked into the room, looked me in the eye and apologized for being late. Much to my surprise he sat down and gave us a full hour of his time.
In my next post I will recap some of that discussion, including his recommendations for CIOs; the future of cloud computing and Microsoft’s view of the healthcare market.