Steve Ballmer was focused on Windows 7, Windows Server RS and Exchange 2010 when he came to Toronto on Wednesday, but following his keynote speech he gathered with a small group of national media to discuss other issues, including a few that pertain specifically to Canada.
Users want to bring a lot more consumer technology into the enterprise. If you’re a CIO, how do you give them more autonomy while still being able to manage and secure your IT properly?
We do have increasing capabilities to let people manage PCs in a different way, whether you let consumers have a part of the manchine they control and part of the machine that IT controls. Certainly that’s a target for Windows, what we’re doing with Systems Center and so on.
People say, “Oh, you should just use virtualization and just have two machines on one.” No. Too much cacophony associated with that. I mean, that actually causes user complexity in a way that is really not desirable. But our management tools have moved in that direction and will continue to.
What should Canada be learning about growing the technology ecosystem from what other countries are doing?
I think government has the most important role for government to play in any country, including here in Canada, to make sure the science and technology and engineering and math programs and investments in small kids, up until university, are in healthy shape. That’s by far No. 1 on the list. If that’s in good shape, you’re going to get kids who choose careers, start businesses, do all the kind of things you would hope they would do.
No. 2, government itself needs to be a willing participant and user of new technologies. Government should not be the most backward user – governments are going to be 25 to 30 per cent of the customer base basically for any country, give or take – so if government is a laggard in technologies, that is not helpful for the local companies, because 25 per cent of what they might have sold just disappears.
The third is to have an environment which, even if it’s not explicitly encouraging, is not unfriendly to startups, to new businesses, to R&D investment. There are ways to be unfriendly in that and there are ways to be neutral or at least not unfriendly. I was in the state of North Dakota yesterday. Turns out there’s local taxes in states, just as there probably are in provinces. And they’re having a debate: apparently you get taxed not on how successful you but how physically large you are in a state, and we’re one of the largest employers in North Dakota. We built a new building and all of a sudden our taxes have tripled. Is that really what government wants to communicate: “Invest and we tax you more?” Succeed and we tax you more I kind of understand, but I think it’s important to think what you want to do as a regime. I’m not saying there’s a formula, but don’t dis-incent.