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CeBIT goes green for 2008

by Stuart Wilson, Tuesday 4 March 2008

You can bet your bottom dollar that gathering together 5,845 exhibitors and their kit from 77 countries around the world for CeBIT will produce a sizeable carbon footprint (unless of course they all cycled or walked to Hannover). Nevertheless, this year’s CeBIT has made amends by making ‘Green IT’ a central theme of the show.

China has overtaken Taiwan as the largest exhibitor by country and a number of exhibitors will be presenting solutions, products and innovations addressing the issues of energy efficiency in the ICT industry and ICT user industries. Ernst Raue, who sits on the Board of Deutsche Messe AG, said: “This year CeBIT has decided to focus on Green IT, with a broad international line-up of contributors bringing together all the key activities of the ICT industry here in Hannover.”

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer showcased his own green credentials during his opening keynote at this year’s show, as he discussed his vision of the fifth computing revolution. Read edited highlights of Ballmer’s speech below:

“The last time I spoke here was in 2002. In that speech I mentioned that I’d been at Microsoft for 22 years and lived through three computing revolutions. Now six years later, I’ve been at Microsoft for 28 years, and I can say that I’ve lived through four. That’s four revolutions in 28 years. Just about one every seven years or so.

During the first revolution, the personal computer became an affordable, mainstream product. This revolution put computing power in the hands of individuals for the first time.

The second revolution saw the emergence of the graphical user interface. That made it much easier for people to take advantage of the power of computing.

Revolution number three saw the rise of the Internet. During this revolution, email became an everyday communications tool and information became dramatically easier to find and share. We also gave computers the ability to talk to each other directly, which allowed us to start to automate a lot of business processes: a revolution by itself.

Revolution number four was just starting in 2002. Let’s call it the “Web 2.0 revolution” since that’s the name commonly used to describe it. During this revolution, the Web has evolved from static pages and information to become a platform for services, and for publishing and sharing information. If this 7-year pattern holds true, we should be at the end of revolution number four and the beginning of a fifth revolution. And if you look at what’s going on in the industry and in the marketplace, that’s exactly what’s happening.

So today, I’d like to share my thoughts about the fifth computing revolution . . . the trends that are shaping it and the impact it will have on our lives and our businesses. The fifth computing revolution

Let me begin by describing the trends that will make this new revolution possible. The first-is the hardware advances that are putting more and more processing power into smaller and smaller devices.

The second trend is significantly expanded storage on PCs and devices of all sizes, and in massive datacentres around the world.

A third key trend is the availability of wireless broadband networks everywhere, because it will allow us to tap into all that processing power and storage wherever we go.

Two other trends will play a critical role in the next seven years. One is natural user interfaces. Today, we have applications that can identify spoken and written words with great accuracy-and we’re starting to see the emergence of interfaces that are driven by touch and gestures.

Over time, interacting with computers will be more and more like interacting with people. We’ll still use a keyboard and a mouse when it’s most efficient. But at other times, you’ll tell your device what you want it to do, or simply use a wave of your hand.

Natural UI has been an important focus for Microsoft for a long time. A really long time. So I’m excited to see these incredible capabilities finally coming to fruition. The last key trend is in displays. The screens and projection devices we use every day are getting cheaper and lighter. By the time the fifth revolution ends-in about 2015 or so-high-definition screens will be everywhere. Instead of devices being tied to built-in screens, we’ll simply link our devices to a nearby display, or project information onto whatever surface is handy.

These are the raw ingredients of the fifth revolution: expanded processing power, huge amounts of storage, ubiquitous broadband, natural UI and screens everywhere. Together, these five ingredients will change almost everything we do.”

“Beyond personal empowerment, the next seven years will also bring about profound change in how we think about social interaction.

This process is already underway. Everyone is familiar with social Web sites like MySpace and Facebook, but I recently saw a survey that really brought home how much young people have embraced online social networking. According to an MTV study, people in their late teens and early 20s have an average of 53 friends. Twenty of those friends are people they’ve never met in person. That means 40% of their friendships are with people they only know through e-mail, instant messaging, and social Web sites.

Clearly, digital technology is becoming an important part of how we connect with people. Already, it’s easy to find a group online that shares your interest in a specific topic. As bandwidth expands and processing power increases, interacting with these people will be more and more like talking with them in person.

This will be important at work, as virtual meetings become more like meeting people face to face. The truth is that right now, everybody hates videoconferencing. It’s hard to set up. It’s stilted and unnatural. But new ways of facilitating interaction between people in different locations are emerging. In the years ahead, amazing innovations like 3-D holographs will make it feel like someone on the other side of the globe is in the same room with you. In fact, this technology already exists. During the fifth revolution, it’ll become more affordable and more accessible.

Preserving and sharing memories of our experiences is another aspect of social interaction that will be transformed. As storage and bandwidth expands, we’ll preserve more of our day-to-day experiences in digital form. Already, we record lots of events and memories through digital photography and video. But mostly, they get filed away, never to be seen again. Soon it will be easy to retrieve the record of any experience—from images of your child’s birthday party to the complete video and audio record, plus slides, of a business meeting that occurred years before.

The revolution in social interaction is about more than staying in touch with university friends, or sharing your excitement for your favourite sports team with other fans. Online community is transforming the way we shape the societies we live in, too.

As parents, the trends driving the fifth revolution will enable us to form tight communities with teachers, administrators, other parents, and our children, so we can work together to provide our kids with a great education. As citizens, it’ll give us new ways to share ideas and participate in the political process. We’re already seeing this today in the U.S. presidential campaign, where online communities are an essential part of how people support their candidates and push for their agenda.

And as business people, greater processing power, expanded storage, better bandwidth, natural UI, and cheap, affordable displays will provide new opportunities to learn about customers and match our products and messages to their needs and desires.”

“Addressing global warming is a responsibility we take very seriously at Microsoft. Although we’re not a major manufacturer, with 1 billion customers and 80,000 employees, we have a big role to play in driving environmental sustainability. Today, for example, we operate a commuter bus system at our Redmond headquarters, which reduces the amount that Microsoft employees drive each day by more than 40,000 kilometres. At our Mountain View Campus in California and Thames Valley Park office in the UK, we use 100 percent renewable energy sources. And one of our largest datacentres runs entirely on hydro power.

But this issue cuts across the industry and requires coordinated efforts by the public and private sectors. Right now we’re working with a broad range of companies and organizations in efforts like the Climate Savers Computing Initiative and Green Grid to improve the energy efficiency of computers and minimize the environmental footprint of the computing industry.

We’re also doing pioneering work to cut down on datacentre power consumption. Our goal is to reduce our own footprint, and then share documentation, guidance, and technology with customers, partners, and even competitors to help create a new generation of datacentres that are significantly more efficient.

In addition, we’re adding features that support sustainability and energy efficiency to many of our own products. And we’re partnering with customers around the world on innovative solutions that drive energy efficiency. For example, here in Germany, we’re working with Yellostrom, a leading electricity supplier, on an online service that lets customers see real-time information about household electricity consumption. In a pilot rollout to about 1,000 households, homeowners have used this information to cut energy consumption by as much as 10 percent, without any noticeable difference in comfort.

Finally, we’re collaborating with the global scientific community-working with scientists to simulate, analyse, and predict the behaviour of complex systems from global climate patterns to the properties of subatomic particles. This critical connection between science and computing cannot be overstated, as it holds the key to tackling some of the most urgent challenges facing humanity today.

In my 28 years at Microsoft, I’ve lived through four computing revolutions. And - as important as they’ve been, I believe that they’ve simply been a foundation for the much more profound changes to come in the next revolution. During the fifth revolution, expanded processing, huge amounts of storage, ubiquitous broadband, natural UI and screens everywhere will help us address global warming, and improve healthcare and education for billions of people around the world. It will transform human social interaction and make computers more useful and more personal. Access to the information, communications and computing capabilities will be seamless and natural.

As computing continues to become more powerful, more affordable and more connected, it will not only enable those of us who live in places like Hannover and Seattle to lead better lives, it will give billions more people around the world a chance to take advantage of incredible new social and economic opportunities so they can lead better lives, too - and that, will truly be revolutionary.

Thank you.”

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