During a keynote speech at the company's TechNet/MSDN Briefings here Tuesday, the chief executive talked about the Longhorn edition of Windows and new security features for the software company's products. He also joked about recent remarks in which he branded iPod users as thieves.
Longhorn will definitely be out in 2006, he said. With such a large gathering of software developers on hand, Ballmer quipped, he didn't have to point out that the target date meant sometime "around Dec. 31, 2006."
As for the iPod, Apple Computer's signature digital music player, Ballmer earlier in the week had ruffled some feathers when he implied that iPod users might be thieves. Speaking in London, Ballmer said, "We've had DRM (digital rights management) in Windows for years. The most common format of music on an iPod is stolen."
He did not repeat that phrasing on Tuesday, instead saying, "I don't know what I said exactly, but it was bad."
When asked which MP3 player his son used, he answered jokingly, "My son doesn't have an MP3 player. He has a Windows Media player." Everyone in his household knows that the protection of intellectual copyrights is important, he said. "It's what puts food on the table."
On the topic of security, Ballmer praised the statistical information that Microsoft is gathering from so-called "error reporting" functionality. This feedback, which mostly occurs when a program crashes, sends data back (on a voluntary basis) to Microsoft for analysis.
The statistical information helps Microsoft fine-tune future service packs and "allows us to fix those problems people really run into," Ballmer said.
Microsoft is planning to use the error-reporting technology not only to register bugs, but also to get feedback on the "user experience." Ballmer urged developers to incorporate the technology into their own software.
The company also has plans to create a technology that will automatically isolate machines with vulnerabilities. Ballmer said 120 million people now regularly visit the Windows Update Web site. "But hackers are smart. We can plan to do it better. We cannot plan to be perfect," he said.
One way the company plans to do things better is through research: Microsoft invests US$6.2 billion in research and development. "Only the automotive industry spends equivalent amounts," Ballmer said.
Ballmer briefly talked about a recent migration by the Port of Rotterdam from a mixed platform of Linux, Unix and Oracle servers to an all-Windows network. "Now, that's the kind of migration I like," he added, drawing laughter from the room.
Lars Pasveer of ZDNet Netherlands reported from The Hague.