Microsoft connects with Chicago business

December 6, 2004


Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, the man who paid $32.6 billion in dividends to investors last week, arrived in Chicago and proclaimed, "Chicago is a high-tech town. People don't necessarily think of it that way. I do."

Ballmer spoke at the Executives' Club of Chicago, where he gave a rousing speech on the continuing importance of innovation. He also connected with Microsoft customers, including Tim Theriault, chief technology officer at Northern Trust, and channel partner CDW CEO John Edwardson, who hosted Ballmer at the Executives' Club.

"Our footprint here might be a little bit bigger than most people have in their mind's eye," Ballmer said. "There are 300 employees, and we have 2,400 business partners. Those folks probably employ 20-to-30,000 people. We have important commercial partnerships with Motorola. We have important relationships with Click Commerce," whose CEO, Michael Ferro, was seated near Ballmer.

"I think Chicago's a great place for business," said Ballmer, who got a little perspective on the city from Mayor Daley. "Mayor Daley was telling me how aggressively Chicago thinks about business. I was super impressed. We talked about the digital divide and education. He has a strong perspective on what technology ought to be doing around reading."

Ballmer's visit marks a period of increased local involvement by Microsoft that is being fueled behind the scenes by Microsoft Midwest General Manager Michael Gorriaran and his predecessor, Geoff Nyheim. Shelley Stern Grach, Microsoft's Midwest community affairs manager, has been an effective advocate in raising Chicago's importance within the company.

While Ballmer's visit is simply one step in a process, continuing to engage Microsoft locally will pay large dividends to Chicago.

Tomorrow's technology

Executives' Club President Kaarina Koskenalusta continues her series of high-tech events Tuesday with a panel exploring "High Tech 2005 and Beyond."

The program features Accenture's chief scientist Glover Ferguson, Microsoft's director of development and platform evangelism Todd Kimble, Comcast Senior Vice President Joe Stackhouse and Intel Vice President David Tennenhouse.

Watch for Stackhouse to talk about interactive television, the expansion of video libraries, the proliferation of digital video recorders, faster broadband connections and Webcams everywhere.

"Our whole strategy is to make our version of television more interactive and put the viewer in control," Stackhouse said.

He predicts you'll soon have caller ID integrated on your high definition television. "You love your mother in-law, but you don't want to miss the game to talk to her," Stackhouse said.

Tennenhouse will describe Intel's latest work in proactive computing. He expects computers will continue to proliferate. Each of us will have hundreds or thousands of computers around us. Unfortunately, we can't easily interact with that multitude of computers.

Tennenhouse envisions a world where vast computing power acts proactively.

"They're out there anticipating your needs," Tennenhouse said. "Sometimes they might even go as far as taking action on your behalf."

He points to current research and treatment under way with early stage Alzheimer's patients whose behavior is monitored and treated by prompts from proactive computers.

Venture capital honored

Illinois Venture Capital Association President Robert Finkel offers a positive outlook on the state's private equity industry tonight when his group convenes its annual awards dinner. Four hundred members of the local VC community are expected at the Ritz Carlton.

"IVCA has grown from eight people thinking about private equity in the state four years ago to over 500 private equity professionals," Finkel said. His group represents the majority of funds in Illinois, and manages more than $35 billion in assets.

Its efforts in Springfield created a $50 million Technology Development Fund, and it will pursue creation of a $200 million Illinois Opportunity Fund supporting Illinois start-up companies in the spring legislative session. IVCA is pressing our public pension funds to invest locally, and it's seeking tax relief to help Illinois attract investors.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago-based tech writer and consultant.


 ©2004 Marion Consulting Partners