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    News: Microsoft's Steve Ballmer predicts virtual avatars for software

    THURSDAY, MAY 26, 2011 | Economic Times Bookmark and Share

    NEW DELHI: Steve Ballmer's future in Microsoft may have become uncertain after a prominent hedge fund manager called for his resignation on Thursday, but that didn't stop the beefy, boisterous pal of Bill Gates from waxing eloquent about the tech industry's future.

    "New software in coming years may have virtual avatars which may take orders, print boarding passes, organise your travel, or write speeches. Avatars will be needed to emulate human action on screen," Ballmer told an audience of employees, customers, and geeks in Delhi on Thursday.

    By an avatar, Ballmer refers to a virtual reflection of a human. The reflection acts, speaks and moves in real time the same way as a human does. "My wife says to me it'll be better to have a virtual avatar of her, going out for exercise every morning. Because it would save her the need of make up," he said.

    The audience, at Delhi's Taj Mansingh hotel, laughed but thousands of miles away in the US, investors in Microsoft stock were grim-faced. Earlier this week, Microsoft slipped behind IBM in market cap rankings after 15 long years. Some weeks ago, it ceded the No 1 position to Apple. Microsoft investors, long used to total, unquestionable dominance were not amused.

    In PCs, its traditional preserve, Microsoft is facing another threat. Apple's iPad has wreaked havoc in the US PC market, with Microsoft's partner HP and Dell seeing a plunge in their annual sales. Microsoft still doesn't have an offering for the tablet PC market.

    Ballmer said Microsoft is working with Finnish giant Nokia to develop the next generation mobile devices. The tech giant had tied up with Nokia to catch up with Google's Android platform which had stolen a huge lead among mobile operating systems. Research firm Gartner predicts that the combination of Nokia and Microsoft will surpass Apple by 2015.

    "In India, Microsoft seems to be behind the curve in the mobility space, with Android and other platforms taking over. There is still a sub 8,000 phone to be seen with Windows Phone 7 platform," says Kunal Bajaj, telecom analyst with Analysys Mason.

    The company has also lost out in the online race. "Earlier internet was used as a medium to write and publish. The web 2.0 was a social web. The web 3.0 will be used to solve problems," he added. MS has still not been able to beat the supremacy of both Google and Facebook in the search and social spaces.

    Ballmer, who is also among top 50 billionaires in the world, with his estimated net worth about $14 billion, said that Microsoft will develop newer technologies in social space. The company bought Skype for $8.5 billion and plans to use its 200 million user base to offer its other enterprise products.

    Ballmer, who was travelling to India via Japan and China, met with his new India chief Bhaskar Pramanik before addressing IIT students at the Delhi campus' Dogra Hall where people like Arun Sarin and Vinod Khosla received their degree. In his goofy jumping jack style, the MS chief encouraged the IITians to find their calling and then pursue them.


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