Having more charisma than Bill Gates may not sound like an achievement, but Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's president, put on an impressive performance during a visit to London last week.
Ballmer, who has the reputation of being a hard hitting businessman, was in the UK to boost Microsoft's continued attempts to be seen as a business focused, rather than technology focused company.
The current driver being used to distance Microsoft from its geeky legacy is knowledge management (KM). From the initial concept that a company is the sum of its employees' knowledge, KM appears to be overtaking ERP (enterprise resource planning) in the super-jargon stakes.
In an animated speech, Ballmer explained Microsoft's KM vision: "Everybody in every company has something to contribute from their brain."
As well as issuing a reminder about the release of Office 2000 on 8 June, Ballmer talked up the products that will make up the company's KM initiative.
These included the next version of Exchange Server, codenamed Platinum and due to ship 90 days after Win 2000; a Web Store File System; wireless solutions for mobile workers and Cleartype, a display technology that aims to improve the quality of text on an LCD screen to match that of paper.
Ballmer also hinted at a set of technologies, codenamed Tahoe, designed to organise corporate knowledge into targeted Intranet portals. But he was vague on the details. "I don't know what we are doing with it yet, but boy is it cool!" he said.
Questions were raised over whether companies really want or need the kind of technical sophistication associated with KM. It has been claimed by Lotus, Microsoft's rival in the office application market, that most consumers do not bother with about a quarter of Word's thousands of features.
Ballmer disagreed and claimed that while some users may not use sophisticated tools to create documents, they use the tools indirectly by reading complex documents created by others.
"People benefit from other workers who author complex documents," he said.
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