June 1, 2007

Education is Microsoft’s Top Priority

By Randy Hodgins

Yesterday I attended the annual Technology Alliance luncheon at the Washington Convention and Trade Center.  The luncheon is the Alliance’s major function each year and more than 1,000 folks from business, government and education were in attendance.

The keynote address was given by Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer in a conversational discussion format lead by the UW’s Ed Lazowska.  While most of us were settling into our chairs and trying to decide how much of our dessert we were going to actually eat, Ballmer got everybody’s attention with his pointed response to Ed’s question about what state government should be doing to help grow the technology industry in Washington State.

“Education, education, education, education” boomed Ballmer as he physically turned to address the assembled throng.  Ballmer went on to bemoan the state’s lack of sufficient four-year degree capacity and while he did note Microsoft’s frustration about transportation issues in Puget Sound, he made it crystal clear that at the end of the day, the most important issue to the company was education.

The message from Ballmer was so clear and passionate, that today’s Seattle Times story about the lunch is titled “If Steve Ballmer were governor…..”  More than a few folks who attended the lunch remarked to me on the way back to the garage, “How much did you guys have to pay him to say those things about higher education?”

Nothing of course, but it’s always nice to be appreciated.

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