Battle of the Steves, Day Two: Ballmer keynotes

Microsoft president Steve Ballmer opened day two of the Seybold conference in San Francisco, following Apple's Steve Jobs, who gave his own address the day before. Ballmer had some interesting things to say, as always, and he once again pledged Microsoft's support for the Macintosh while saying that his company was warily eyeing Linux as a threat. He even opened the possibility that Microsoft would release parts of the Internet Explorer and Windows source to the public.

"Every day we wake up smarter and will consider what \[open source software\] means," said Ballmer. "There are perhaps other pieces of the system where we need to open things up. At the end of the day, it's not that the software is free that people are attracted to it. When they get excited, it's because there is some flexibility they have with Linux and Apache that they won't have with NT. All that does is make us wonder if there's a way to open up parts of NT."

Part of Ballmer's keynote, which was designed to reaffirm Windows as a credible alternative to the Macintosh, was a demonstration of Chromeffects, a new Microsoft technology that brings multimedia effects to the Web. Chromeffects also provides new features to the desktop, such as the ability to deal with documents realistically on a 3D desktop. Chromeffects, however, is limited to high-end hardware: A 350 MHz Pentium II with a 4 MB AGP video card is the minimum recommended system.

"I think pages like that represent the wave of the future," he said. "We think it's important for us to give Web developers the option."

Currently, the publishing industry is dominated by the Macintosh. When Ballmer asked the crowd at the keynote to raise their hands if Windows was their dominant publishing platform, about a third did. Two thirds of the crowd used the Macintosh. He said that was better than the situation seven years earlier when he first came to Seybold.

"My sister and I, and maybe two other people in the room used Windows \[back then\]," he said.

On the other hand, the Seybold crowd is largely Mac-based to begin with. According to a study by International Data Corp., 41% percent of publishers are using Windows NT today, and 59% will install NT servers this year.

"Windows, as everyone knows, is coming from behind in the publishing sphere," Ballmer said.

And Ballmer noted, contradicting Apple's claims for WebObjects (with only 3000 customers), that Windows reigns supreme for E-Commerce Web site development. He said that 15 of the top 25 E-commerce sites were running Windows NT and Internet Information Server (IIS), the real leader in Web application servers. Ballmer says the remainder is split between Netscape and Unix, at five sites each

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