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Ballmer deploys greenery in CeBIT charm offensive

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On his first trip to CeBIT in six years, Steve Ballmer is hoping to fix up Microsoft's somewhat tarnished image in Europe.

Tonight, he's at the official CeBIT opening ceremony along with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and German chancellor Angela Merkel. Rumour has it he'll use the event to demo Microsoft's cool - though not exactly original - surface computing technology.

Today though, he's been trying to re-cast the Jolly Red(mond) Giant as a friend of both Europe and the environment.

Yes, it's true - Microsoft has discovered power saving. Paradoxically, but perhaps more profitably, it has also discovered that research into energy consumption needs an awful lot of clustered high-performance computing...

"To be more green, we need the scientific research that will power green energy," Ballmer declared. "We have formed an entire group at Microsoft to drive our product to be more suitable for scientific research."

He added that saving energy "is work for the software community as well as hardware," and cited numbers to show how machines running newer versions of Windows use less power than those still on older software.

For example, he claimed that Vista's idle mode consumes 33 times less power than XP's, while Windows Server 2008 is up to 40 per cent less power-hungry than Windows Server 2003.

Microsoft - which is currently building new data centres around the world - also wants to establish itself as an authority in the area of data centre design, said Ballmer.

"We try to be a pioneer in our own data centres," he said. "We are on a path to build some of the most power-efficient data centres in the world, 40% more efficient than a few years ago, and we think our Hyper-V virtualisation technology could take data centre power consumption down by another five times."

The company will now publish its best-practice advice on data centre design, covering areas such as site selection and space and power optimisation, he added.

Ballmer also touted Microsoft's partnership with German power supplier Yello Strom, which has developed a Windows CE-based electricity meter plus a Vista widget that lets householders monitor their power consumption on a PC.

It's not exactly home automation class stuff - to see how much power an appliance is using, you turn it off for a while and see how your total consumption changes. And it then relies on you changing your household's behaviour appropriately.

Still, the ability to track power use over time - hourly, say, or even month by month - has translated into savings of up to 10 per cent in trials, Ballmer said. ®

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