CeBIT 2008: Ballmer's Vision of the Future

Traditionally, the big names of the IT industry make their predictions the day before CeBIT opens. This time, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer was one of them and predicted ground breaking changes for the future.

While Bill Gates was considered the chief visionary among the Microsoft leadership, it seems that Steve Ballmer has taken on this role now. In his opening speech at CeBIT, he did not touch on any of the problems currently dogging the software giant, such as its intended takeover of Yahoo or the multi-million Euro fine imposed by the EU Commision. Instead, he gazed into his own personal crystal ball and shared what he saw with the crowd. His favourite word? Computing revolution. "In my 28 years at Microsoft, I've lived through four computing revolutions." In his opinion, the first was when computers became affordable for a wide audience, the second was the development of the graphics user interface, the third the rise of the internet, with the fourth being the interactive Web 2.0.

A tap of the finger opened this year's CeBIT.

According to Ballmer, we are on the brink of the "fifth computer revolution." It will be characterized by "expanded processing power, huge amounts of storage, ubiquitous broadband, natural UI and screens everywhere." Ubiquitous broadband is an essential component of Ballmer's vision, letting users access their files, data, movies or photos from anywhere. "You won't need to know where your information is stored. It won't matter what device you're using. You'll just log on, click, and instantly get access."

Ballmer also made predictions regarding the next revolution, where intelligent displays will finally make paper obsolete - and if this doesn't happen during the fifth computer revolution, we can always just wait for the sixth one.

CeBIT 2008 was officially opened by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Steve Ballmer, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the President of the EU Commission José Manuel Barroso. They cut the virtual ribbon, so to speak, by pressing their fingers onto one of Microsoft's "Surface" systems. (See also: Microsoft Demonstrates Surface)

You can read the full transcript of Ballmer's keynote speech at the official CeBIT page here.

(Images: Associated Press, DPA)

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Thomas Kretschmann