Ballmer Outlines Vision For Next Computing Revolution

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In a keynote speech Monday evening at the CeBIT trade show, Ballmer identified five trends that Microsoft sees as key drivers of future computing efficiency. For starters, hardware advances are not only putting more processing power in the hands of more users, they're also enabling more functionality to be added to smaller devices, said Ballmer.

In addition, the rapid expansion of storage technology has boosted the amount of information PCs and other devices can store, a development that has led to the emergence of massive data centers around the world, that "will store all information, current, past, and future," Ballmer said.

Wireless networks are another important trend, because they make it possible to tap into the advancements in processing power and storage, Ballmer added.

Microsoft has for years been focused on the development of natural user interface technology, and those efforts are finally poised to bear fruit, Ballmer said. "Today we have applications that can identify spoken and written words with greater accuracy, and we're starting to see the emergence of interfaces that are driven by touch and gestures," said Ballmer. "Over time, interacting with computers will be just like interacting with people."

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The final trend is display technologies, which have been getting cheaper and lighter, to the point where they'll soon become viable alternatives to paper, according to Ballmer. "Instead of devices being tied to built-in screens, we'll simply link our devices to a nearby display, or project information onto whatever device is handy," Ballmer said.

These five trends will bring about positive changes in the areas of personal empowerment, social interaction, and global social issues, Ballmer said.

Despite the pervasiveness of computing power, the experience is still confusing to many users, especially those who've endured the hassle of trying to move data from a work PC to a home PC. "It's still a little too complicated. A little too disconnected. Think about how hard it is to synchronize all your devices and information," Ballmer said.

But during the next revolution, virtually all data content and media and books will be digitized, and historical records, magazines, government documents, and newspapers will all be instantly accessible and tailor to whatever devices they're being viewed on, Ballmer said.

Communication will also become more seamless, moving from voice, text, and video between a multitude of devices, with software serving to unite the disparate functions, Ballmer said. "To help tie this together, we'll have a single 'digital identity' for all our communications," he said.