Ballmer: 'A new era of partnership'

Microsoft's chief executive said the software company and the entire information technology industry "are on the verge of a new era of partnership with the government" to improve security and address privacy concerns.

"There are issues that need more public and private cooperation," Steve Ballmer said in remarks Nov. 12 at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. "Government realizes that an innovative technology industry is the key to economic growth. This forms the basis of a new partnership."

Without discussing specifics, Ballmer said the company is working with authorities to curtail identity theft, reduce the chances of debilitating attacks on the Internet, curb spam and provide privacy protections.

Citing industry estimates, Ballmer said identity theft costs consumers $1 billion a year while spam, or unwanted e-mail, accounts for two of every three in-box messages today.

"Technology companies can do a great deal, both to create technology tools that address social issues, such as privacy and security, and to work together through responsible industry self regulation," said Ballmer, who joined Microsoft in 1980 and was appointed CEO nearly three years ago.

"But government will need to assess the situation and carefully fill in the gaps, doing what companies cannot do by themselves while taking care not to discourage innovation in the process," he said.

Ballmer's remarks were the first in Washington since a federal court on Nov. 1 approved the company's landmark antitrust settlement with the Justice Department and attorneys general in nine states.

Ballmer called the controversial settlement fair, and said the company has moved rapidly to disclose more technical details about its Windows operating system to competitors and make changes in contracts and licenses.

Ballmer pledged to "support industry cooperation in new, creative ways," including collaborating on improving the XML, or the extensible markup language standard, and cooperating on security solutions.

Microsoft is spending $5 billion this year on research and development efforts, about 15 percent more than a year ago, he said.

"Despite two decades of remarkable growth for the computing industry," the 46-year-old chief executive said, "we believe we are just at the beginning of what is possible for technology."

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