While Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has no immediate plans to leave Microsoft, apparently some people have thought (jokingly?) of possible roles for...

While Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has no immediate plans to leave Microsoft, apparently some people have thought (jokingly?) of possible roles for him to fill in the public sector.

The first suggestion came from Sen. John McCain, running for the Republican presidential nomination, at the D: All Things Digital conference in Carlsbad, Calif., last week.

As reported on Brier Dudley’s blog, McCain said if he were president, he’d fill key positions with the smartest people in the country, instead of appointing cronies and political hacks.

Asked for examples, he mentioned Cisco Systems Chief Executive John Chambers, who was sitting in the front row, and FedEx founder Fred Smith. Smith could help sort out the defense-acquisition system, McCain said.

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Then he mentioned Ballmer. His onstage interviewer chimed in:

“I’m curious, Steve Ballmer’s secretary of state, right?”

McCain caught the wave of laughter with a comeback:

Broadening market


The number of broadband subscribers is expected to increase by 65 million worldwide over the next year and reach a total of 567 million by 2011.

Source: Strategy Analytics

“How about ambassador to China?”

Later in the week, at the Technology Alliance luncheon in Seattle, Ed Lazowska, a computer-science professor at University of Washington, quizzed Ballmer on a range of issues, including education. One question asked Ballmer to think like “the CEO of Washington state.”

Casting a line

TiE-Seattle, a group that supports entrepreneurship with seminars and other events, held a dinner in Bellevue last week featuring a discussion on content for mobile phones.

Speakers included Cole Brodman, chief development officer of T-Mobile USA; Len Jordan, general partner at Frazier Technology Ventures; Brendan Benzing, vice president of products and marketing at InfoSpace; Jai Jaisimha, vice president of development at Medio Systems and Hank Skorny, executive vice president of business development at OZ Communications.

But it was Satoshi Nakajima, the CEO of UIEvolution, a Bellevue-based company owned by Japan-based Square Enix, who made some of the more poignant comments.

Nakajima spent 14 years at Microsoft before leaving to help start Ignition Partners, a Bellevue venture firm. He then started UIEvolution, which helps companies such as ESPN and MySpace make mobile applications.

Nakajima said he was sold on wanting to work in the mobile business after playing a simple mobile-phone fishing game while in Japan.

He said all the game required was choosing where you wanted to cast your line — near a bridge, for instance — and forget about it while the phone was in your pocket. A while later, the phone would vibrate and — voilà! — you’ve caught a fish.

Some people talk about how the mobile phone is about being always connected.

Nakajima countered: “I think this is the answer — being semiconnected.”

Front-row view

This might be kind of intuitive, but let’s hear the voice of experience to back it up.

At the previously mentioned Technology Alliance lunch, Redfin won the Alliance of Angels 2007 Company of the Year award.

That wasn’t a huge surprise to Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman, who had this advice upon winning:

“A memo to anyone wondering whether you’re going to win next year: If they put you at the front table, you’re going to win. if you’re in the middle, which is where we sat last year, you’re going to lose.”

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