June 10, 2005

Top CEOs Describe Future Technologies

WASHINGTON -- Too much wine with dinner? In the future, your car might not start if you're drunk - and it might automatically call a cab, notify your spouse and even reschedule business appointments early the next morning. That sobering vision of things to come could also include the ability to read important e-mails and other vital messages on television, wireless telephone or computers at work and at home.

"The solutions just open up wide," says Borland Software's chief executive, Dale Fuller, who foresees the drunk-dealing automobile.

To Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, technology in the future promises better tools for sorting and managing important information - from e-mails, instant messages, blogs and Web sites - that will help computer users discard their digital junk.

"The world of information gets more unified," Ballmer said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. "I want to be able to see what I need to see whether I'm on my PC or at my TV."

Ballmer and other executives, all part of the Washington-based Business Software Alliance, met with congressional leaders and members of President Bush's Cabinet to lobby over Internet security, foreign trade and protections against software piracy.

They also met with AP reporters and editors for a broad-ranging conversation about future technologies, downloading music, keeping children away from online smut and general Internet safety.

Ballmer, head of the world's largest software company, said he worries consumers who make Internet purchases have become too complacent about the serious risks of financial fraud and stolen identity.

Ballmer said he believes a calm period without significant Internet attacks has lulled computer users, even older Web surfers who traditionally have been more anxious than teenagers about their online safety.

"I don't want trepidation high, but on the other hand I want people aware of what's going on and taking appropriate precautions," Ballmer said. "I'm afraid that may have declined, a little too much."

The executives said parents should teach children to avoid the Internet's seedier neighborhoods. Ballmer said one of his sons carries a laptop every day to school and spends hours online unsupervised.

"We need to oversee and use technology and teach our children what's appropriate," Ballmer said. "Some of it's still going to have to come from parents kind of teaching their kids what's right. That was true even before the Internet."

Stephen Elop, chief executive at Macromedia Inc. (MACR) and a father of five, said he uses software tools to protect his kids online. "But I do not abdicate the responsibility to train my children," he said. "At the end of the day, you have to develop their character and trust them to respond."

Another chief executive, John McEleney of SolidWorks Corp., urged the Supreme Court not to allow expanded copyright lawsuits against manufacturers of file-sharing software popular for stealing music and movies over the Internet. A decision in the case is expected in coming weeks.

Ballmer joked his family never downloads songs illegally.

"As I tell my three little boys, our family is going to be as holier than thou when it comes to copyrights as any family around because I have to do this kind of work," Ballmer said.


On the Net:

Video of the AP interview is available at: http://wid.ap.org/video/tech.rm