An animated Ballmer paced the stage for more than 45 minutes as he gave an emphatic speech about Microsoft's new "operating system in the cloud," Windows Azure.
The event was attended by more than 1,000 Australian developers and was streamed to more than 200,000 around the world via Microsoft's new IIS Smooth Streaming technology derived from the Silverlight multimedia platform.
Ballmer described Azure as a "development environment on a cloud platform."
"Real cool stuff comes from developers and you have one of the best developer ecosystems in the world," Ballmer told the Sydney audience. "Today is Liberation Day for developers around the world. A day when [the] Windows Azure Services Platform gives you the potential to scale the possibilities and create the next generation of software."
Ballmer said that the growth of social networking is driving the developer ecosystem and that the cloud computing model of Azure will make it easier for developers through "rich client cloud services."
"Marrying a cloud development environment to a social environment is phenomenal," Ballmer said. He then noted that the social networking model will evolve from social applications to business-relationship applications, such as a Facebook for business.
Clearly, Ballmer sees cloud computing services as a key part of Microsoft's future. He said that when he first joined Microsoft, the goal was to put a PC on every desktop. Today, the company's vision is to create a "seamless experience for users to access the world of devices."
He said small businesses and startups will benefit from Microsoft's Software plus Services offerings and rich client cloud services. He alluded to programs such as Microsoft BizSpark and DreamSpark as examples of Microsoft leading the shift to the cloud.
"Microsoft has the unique responsibility to provide power for developers in this new world of Software plus Services," Ballmer said.
The ability to scale infrastructure to meet business needs is especially cost-effective for small and startup businesses, he said.
"User experience is the key," Ballmer said. "Today we can create a rich set of services that help build relationships and develop the next generation of applications and devices. "
He concluded his presentation by saying that the best profession in the future will be in software development. "Ten years from now, computers will track every surface in the world."
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