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Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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January 7, 2009 6:36 PM

CES: Ballmer realistic about economy, optimistic about technology

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

LAS VEGAS -- Steve Ballmer is on stage now. For a rundown of what he's expected to announce, see this post.

He asked the audience to join him in a round of applause for Bill Gates -- Microsoft co-founder and chairman, and his predecessor on the International Consumer Electronics Show stage -- for his decision to devote the majority of his time to helping people around the world, particularly children in Africa. The full house (though not overflowing) obliged.

Ballmer was realistic about the economic backdrop against which this industry meets. He was also resolutely optimistic about the power of technology.

"It feels like we've entered a period of reduced expectations, a time when we may be tempted to temper our optimism and scale back our ambition," Balmer said. "But ... I believe our digital lives will only continue to get richer. There really is no turning back from the connected world, and the pace of technological advance bringing people closer together."

He also pledged to continue Microsoft's investments in research and development, which exceeded $8 billion last year.

"Companies and industries that continue to pursue innovation during tough economic times, will achieve a competitive advantage, positioning themselves for growth," Ballmer said.

Not surprisingly, Ballmer was bullish on the future of the PC.

"Today, only a billion or so people have a PC, and that means there are more than 5 billion people who have never owned a PC," he said. "So we have a lot of work to do to make computing more affordable ... and things like netbooks and efforts like One Laptop Per Child will continue to democratize computing for the next 1 billion people."

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