Just like the late winter sky outside the Paul G. Allen building on the campus of the University of Washington, Microsoft's future is in the clouds -- cloud computing to be exact. "For the cloud, we're all in," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said to students in his first-ever speech on the campus that sits just across Lake Washington from Microsoft's Redmond, WA. headquarters.
First of all, said Ballmer, there are great opportunities and great responsibilities that are going to require "a range of innovations" and opportunities to create new software to change the computing environment and the way people use the cloud going forward. "The amount of invention that has to happen remains high." However, those opportunities do not come without responsibilities, including protecting users' privacy and confidentiality.
Second, software in the cloud should learn, and help users learn, as well as to help them make decisions and take actions. "The cloud needs to learn about you, (to) have the ability to understand what you're interested in." For instance, a future app in the cloud needs to understand a user's interest in the health care debate, for example, and provide actionable information that the user can act on.
Ballmer's talk was, as usual, peppered with demo's showing off the company's products. In one demonstration, a Microsoft engineer unveiled recent advances in the company's Bing search technology that let the user zoom in from a map to a "synthetic" aerial view of buildings in the area to street side images, and be able to look up to the skies overhead to show what constellations are in view at the time, with images provided by Microsoft Research's Worldwide Telescope.