Steve Ballmer: Big data's a big need for Microsoft – and Israel can helpNov. 6, 2012
When Microsoft goes shopping for new technology, Israel is one of the first places it looks. And what Microsoft is looking for right now, according to its CEO Steve Ballmer, are experts in machine learning to help with the challenge of big data.
“How do we use mass amounts of data to figure out what customers want?” the Microsoft CEO asked an audience in Israel on Monday. With machine learning, according to Ballmer — an area in which Israel has expertise.
Ballmer said he was “thrilled to be in Israel” telling the local audience that “there is a wide range of exciting things going on here.” The CEO, who called the country's start-up scene “remarkable”, was in Israel for Microsoft's own tech start-up event, called ThinkNext — a sort of combination start-up contest, where 15 companies chosen out of hundreds displayed their innovations, along with a series of TED-type talks about everything from computing, to art, war, and peace.
Ballmer himself participated in one of those talks, taking part in a conversation with Israel's chief scientist, Avi Hasson, and discussing a range of topics, including big data and its impact on enterprise.
“A venture capitalist told me that in his opinion we are going to see a complete revamping of enterprise software. Right now we have a problem: on a company's website you can see all the wonderful things they do, but you can't find the thing that you are looking for. How can we bridge the gap between what's available and what's needed,” weeding through the huge amounts of data to get to the useful pieces? The answer, said Ballmer, lies in machine learning, which will sort through the data to get the answers.
An example of how that would work in real life is the XBox suggestion platform, which has since been expanded for use throughout Windows 8. The platform looks at the user's preferences and recommends music, movies, games, and other items, and was developed at Microsoft's Israel R&D centre. In the same way, said Ballmer, “customer interaction and service will improve based on machine learning.”
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