Apr 12 - 18, 2010

Abandoned children are an everyday sight for pedestrians and drivers; these children spend their days washing windshields, begging and sleeping on the dangerous sidewalks of Pakistan's metropolis.

While for most of these millions of abandoned children shelter, guidance and safety remains a fantasy, some have been lucky enough to be adopted by the Gehwara. Gehwara is a shelter that houses 30 children under the age of 6 years and is being run by the department of social works Government of Punjab.

Realizing the importance of such institutions, Microsoft Pakistan organized an 'Employee Volunteer Day' in which Microsoft's employees gave their time and talent to bring a smile on children's faces. Microsoft's Employee Volunteer day is designed to inculcate the idea that giving back to society should not just be limited to monetary benefits and that the most valuable gifts are the talent and time one gives. It is our small but positive contributions that make a world worth living for, said Kamal Ahmed, Country Manager Microsoft Pakistan.

Microsoft Pakistan, as part of its global volunteer initiative, gives employees a day off with pay to adopt a socially responsible cause and contribute to the development of society. The novel idea was executed for the first time when a group of employees from Microsoft Pakistan decided to spend their time and talent with the children of Gehwara. The employees spent a whole day with children who were joyous with the toys, clothing and shoes gifted to them from Microsoft employees from all over the Pakistan.

Aslam Metla, Senior District Officer, Social Welfare Complex appreciated the initiative by Microsoft. "I must appreciate the step taken by the Microsoft employees and Microsoft itself. Programs like these underscore the importance of volunteer action to make a difference in the lives of the disadvantaged. We hope this will also encourage other organizations to come forward and work with the communities where they operate."

The daylong event included a meet and greet amongst the children, Microsoft's staff and the school administration. The scene was exciting when one witnesses what can happen when the passion of people meets the power of technology. The children were jubilant when they received toys, clothing and shoes sent to them from Microsoft employees from all over the Pakistan. Microsoft Pakistan employees also painted and decorated the children's rooms. In addition water filters and other kitchen essentials were also donated by Microsoft Pakistan team.

Microsoft Pakistan has multiple citizenship and corporate social responsibility initiatives running across the country which includes computer training centers for underserved communities in northern areas in collaboration with Agha Khan Foundation. Microsoft is also a key partner in setting up computer labs in the government schools of Punjab, a project spearheaded by Chief Minister. 4286 labs are already functional, more than 400 teachers have been trained and 3 million students will benefit.

While talking to the students at the University of Washington, Steve Ballmer the CEO of Microsoft stated that Approx 70 per cent of the software developers at Microsoft have cloud computing at the core of their activities. He further elaborated that. "A year from now, that will be 90 per cent".

In a detailed discussion with these computer science majors, he explained the significance of cloud, in regards to computer hosting services, along with his company's strategy in utilizing this inclination to their benefit.

He stated that cloud connectivity is found at the core of products like, Windows, Office, Azure, Xbox, Bing and Windows Phone etc. Although some recent products like Windows 7 are not cloud based, but the cloud was definitely the basis of their inspiration.

Ballmer also explained Microsoft's different approaches in creating devices that hook up to cloud based hosting. "The cloud wants smarter devices," he said.

He acknowledged Microsoft's past errors, in regards to their approach to the cell phone market, providing hardware manufacturers a variety of opportunities for form factors. He stated that "We didn't standardize enough. The cacophony of form factors for you, the user was too high."

The unveiling of the Windows Phone 7 (the latest Microsoft cell phone software) has shown a more stringent set of hardware prerequisites. Nevertheless more options are required by the manufacturers for innovation with Microsoft's competitors like Apple and Research In Motion where "you get what they choose to build for you," Ballmer said.

The Xbox gaming console uses the similar approach. But Ballmer hinted that there might be some diversity with the gaming console, he said. "You might have some more form factors in the future for different price points and options."

Microsoft aims to encourage more private and public owned cloud services. As Ballmer states "How does the cloud become something that is not just Microsoft and four other companies run on the behalf of the whole planet? How do we give the cloud back to you?" he said, "You should be able to, if you want, run your own cloud."

In some cases Microsoft may be keen in assisting organizations in operating their own hosting services, the reason being this, is the impracticality for Microsoft to do so itself. A prime example of such an instance can be a government policy of retaining hosted data within the country. But in a certain countries, Microsoft may not be able to make such major investments. As Ballmer states "This company is not likely to build a public cloud in Slovenia any time soon." Instead Microsoft's preference here would be to market an amalgamation of products with specifics to its Azure cloud services that such countries can purchase and put into operation.

There are numerous benefits with regards to cloud computing for companies and researchers. Ballmer cited an example, with regards to bringing the world's most poverty stricken to a prosperous future, which will probably mean utilization of more energy by them. "We need to speed up the rate of scientific innovation" that can help solve climate change issues, before that happens, he said. Researchers might be able to run experiments quickly and analyze more data if they are able to access public cloud services, he said.

Ballmer said that the cloud "will create opportunities for all the folks in this room to do important research and build important projects."

New possibilities for business are also created with the hosted computing model. "I think we are seeing and will continue to see where there are literally new software investments that create new business models, new opportunities to start and form businesses because of this commercial software infrastructure that is never existed before," he said.

By utilizing such computer hosting services new companies can offer their products to local as well as international customers, by paying for the computer services it is utilizing.

Ballmer also suggested that some open source developers interested in the financial viability of their developments will find cloud computing quite beneficial. "With the advent of this new commercial infrastructure, some investors can now ask, how can I monetize this, how can I get an economic value from the innovations that I get a chance to create," he said. "Our inspiration, our vision builds from this cloud base", Ballmer said, "This is the bet, if you will for our company."