ECONOMY

Microsoft CEO meets minister, is optimistic about IT prospects

Microsoft President and CEO Steve Ballmer, on a visit to Greece on the occasion of Microsoft Hellas’s 10th anniversary, met yesterday with Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis. «We discussed issues of mutual interest and ways to improve the implementation of information society in Greece,» Christodoulakis told reporters. «The country has great prospects, but has not yet developed information society to the level required by current information technology and telecommunications developments,» he added. According to sources, Ballmer talked about Microsoft’s experience in setting up online government sites, in the UK and Spain, for example. Ballmer appeared optimistic about the short- and medium-term prospects of the information technology industry, despite the burst of the so-called «New Economy bubble» from mid-2000 onward. He said he had forecast what has happened. «When I said, a few years back, that Internet companies’ stocks are overvalued, I got thousands of hate messages through the e-mail,» he said. Although he does not forecast a rise in expenditure on technology in the near future, he said that the next decade will be both more impressive and more substantial in terms of technological advances than the previous one. As for Microsoft, which he leads after founder Bill Gates stepped down from day-to-day management duties, he said that it is going through a period of reorganization following the big ups and downs of its shares and the bruising battle with the US Justice Department over allegations of monopoly practices and improper conduct. Ballmer especially defended Microsoft against the latter charge, pointing to the company’s governance principles and distancing it from recently discovered «shameful» corporate practices leading to inflated revenue statements. Microsoft is no longer a software-based company, Ballmer said, but one which produces a great variety of products. Recently, the first mobile phone/digital assistant with Microsoft software entered the market; the company will soon launch its product line of servers using Microsoft’s. net platform, its most complex operating system so far. Within the year, the company will also launch its Windows system for tablet PCs, devices the size of A4 paper with a touch-sensitive screen. Microsoft will spend $5 billion this year on research and development, focusing on the. net platform and on developing software to connect all household appliances.