In his opening keynote address to several thousand attendees, titled "Enabling People to Drive Business Success," Ballmer said all of them had "got through the dot-com bubble and bust and are now in a period of sustained growth for our industry."
This upbeat view is backed up by the fact that more than 11,000 people are attending this years Tech Ed, with the show selling out earlier than ever before, Ballmer said. For Microsoft, he added, this year also marks the 10-year anniversary of Windows 95.
"I expect the next 10 years to be even more exciting," Ballmer said, admitting that challenges also exist, and that one of them is helping IT managers assist others with working more productively.
This new world of work includes improving customer satisfaction, improving personal productivity, finding the right information and engaging in the business process, Ballmer said.
"We know that there are pain points out there that are felt by information workers," he said. "So, if we at Microsoft and all of you are really going to do our job, we have to allow them to really engage. Microsoft has to give you the tools to enable this new style of work."
Ballmer was interrupted by Samantha Bee, the anchor of an imaginary morning IT show called "The Techie Show," who listed the top five things information workers want.
These are: one identity and password; the ability to see the online presence of others who are available; network access; synchronization across all devices; and collaboration with others outside the company. The standard response from IT pros to these demands, she said, has been a simple "no can do."
Saying that Microsoft Corp. has work to do on these fronts, Ballmer said the company had been working hard on its .Net infrastructure for more than five years now. He thanked .Net developers around the world who are designing and building applications.
The applications must be up and running for information workers, and Microsofts Dynamic Systems Initiative is approaching an important milestone with the release of Visual Studio 2005 this year, he said. Visual Studio 2005 builds management and instrumentation into every application, but this is an area that needs more core infrastructure, Ballmer said.
Part of this infrastructure is delivered through applications such as Office, Outlook and Exchange. Information workers must have access to the information they need without compromise, and this must be a goal despite the challenges of security and remote access, he said.