Steve Ballmer in Nashville – bits and bytes from hats and boots?

21 01 2010

Fresh off his ten year anniversary as CEO, Steve Ballmer moved through Nashville spreading his excitement and promoting Microsoft as a partner and reminded us that Microsoft hasn’t rolled over and still has plenty of BING!…I mean moxie. Sorry about that, Steve will hit you with a BING out of nowhere.

Along with the big announcement to partner with Nashville based HCA in donating $1.25 million to nonprofits in the area that’s primary focus is healthcare, the Ballmer buzz moved in and around Nashville from event to event throughout the day.
A busy day of events started with a student meet and greet [UPDATE: with a kid that had to poke the bear] and the keynote for the Nashville Technology Council’s (NTC) Membership Breakfast hosted by Trevecca Nazarene University. Mayor Karl Dean touted the recently approved convention center and plans for a first of its kind 12-story medical mart while stressing the importance of technology and healthcare to Nashville’s future. Former CIO magazine Editor in Chief and current business technology analyst, editor and speaker Abbie Lundberg forecasted a continued thaw in IT budgets along with the highlighting CIO’s struggle to squeeze efficiencies out of what resources they have now while planning for the growth they need for the future.

With twice the attendance as last year, NTC’s President and CEO Tod Fetherling addressed the room of 800+ about the organization’s website rebranding, Techville.us and their T3 Initiative. Other feather’s in NTC’s hat include raising membership by 18%, sponsoring a free outside wifi network in downtown Nashville, and helping establish an Entrepreneurial Center – a first for the city.
The breakfast culminated with Steve Ballmer’s keynote. Stating people are likely to overestimate technology in the short term and underestimate its possibilities in the long term, he assured the crowd that Microsoft is positioning itself to be a strong player and leader across the technology board. He illustrated opportunity being everywhere pointing to the Microsoft employees in the room who were still using pen and paper to take notes. He touched on the company’s “3 screens and a cloud” vision of the future, crowd pleasing Project Natal and referred to bing as the little search engine that could. He even made light of its 50% increase in market share…from a total of 7-10% of total search engine market share.
After a busy day of events and panels and BING, a laid back ‘Microsoft meets Music Row’ event awarded some of Microsoft’s local partners in the music industry for their projets over the past year. United Artists Records’ artist portals using MS webslice technology, singer Dolly Parton’s webslices and multiple apps made with CMA to increase its interaction with attendees at its annual CMA Music Festival where some of the award highlights. Steve commended Nashville’s own Firefly Logic several times as the type of creative partner Microsoft needs to continue to be a force in the tech industry. Recording artists Lee Brice, Bomshel and Rodney Atkins each played a couple of songs after Microsoft donated a custom, signature filled Xbox Rock Band guitar to CMA. CMA plans to auction the guitar and donate the proceeds to charity.
There was definitely an electricity in the air other than the occasional lightening strike. It could have been the excitement of having a ‘tech rock star’ like Steve Ballmer come to town, the promise of a capital infusion to local healthcare nonprofits, lofty expectations for a new convention center or a first of its kind medical mart. However, those in the Nashville tech community know that electricity is always around, and it is only getting stronger as Nashville sets the course for a future in the south that moves away from agriculture and manufacturing to a state of the art, leader in technology and healthcare…to solidify its rebranding as the Healthcare Silicon Valley and the transition to bits and bytes. The hats and boots aren’t going anywhere yet – they are just getting bluetooth and built-in wifi.
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