Steve Balmer runs Microsoft. He took over from Bill Gates earlier this year. I've seen him talk before. He's good.
Today I saw him talk again at the Microsoft Student Technology Day in London. Zoe, Sam and I caught the early train out of Hull and headed for the Royal Festival Hall in London for Student Technology Day.
The Steve Balmer session was in the middle of a whole bunch of presentations put on for students from around the country. All the sessions were excellent.
First up was Andy McLoughlin, co-founder of Huddle.net. Huddle is a rather nice looking group collaboration tool which Andy and his company have taken from an idea they had in a pub to a fully fledged, venture capital backed, commercial application in a few years. Andy talked about the 20 rules for any startup and really laid it on the line about how to succeed. Very interesting and inspiring stuff.
Next up was Jay Girotto, Principal Group Program Manager, Windows Live Search. Jay took us through the latest version of Live Search and how the chase is on to produce search engines that provide more than just a few links to things that might be useful. This led into discussions of context, artificial intelligence and systems of fearsome complexity, all with the aim of making it easier to find what you want.
Ralf Herbrich is a Senior Researcher at Microsoft's computer science lab in Cambridge and he was up next talking about Artificial Intelligence in games. Excellent stuff. The presentation took the lid off lots of clever things that they have to do to make your computer opponents more interesting, and to match up players in network games so that everyone has a good time.
And then we got to Steve B. And how. Say what you like about the bloke, but he has amazing presence. At the start of the talk he made the point that computers should make it possible to have gatherings like the one we were attending, without the need to for us all to actually travel to the same place. On that I disagree. Just watching the effect this chap was having on the students in the room, I could see that actually being in the same place as a speaker is really the best way to get a feel for their energy and where they are coming from.
The man himself
After his talk Steve answered some questions posed by delegates. And the first question he answered was from me! Who would have thought it? I'm told that all the sessions have been recorded and will be available soon. If you want to find out what I asked and what the answer was, I'll put the link up as soon as I have it.
Finally we had a session from Paolo Barone an Academic Technologist who took us for a lap around Microsoft Surface, the new platform from Microsoft. This is amazing. Multi-touch from multi users, intuitive interfaces and what looks like an easy to understand programming model. Want one. Really, really, want one.
And then it was time for the train and home.
Many thanks to Microsoft, particularly Andy Sithers and Mark Johnston, for making everything go so well. Andy did a great job as Master of Ceremonies too, although I think he should have worn a suit as well.....
A great day.