New Zealand PM drops in on Microsoft

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Monday, April 2, 2007

Microsoft's logo at a German campus.

Prime Minister Helen Clark of New Zealand visited Microsoft's corporate headquarters in Seattle last week. She was welcomed by CEO Steve Ballmer, senior vice-president and CFO Chris Liddell, a New Zealander, and Microsoft New Zealand managing director Helen Robinson.

During the visit, they looked at ways technology could help the continuing growth of New Zealand's economic development. Ms Clark also examined Microsoft's newest productivity software, mainly including offerings in the areas of video conferencing and online collaboration tools. "There is no comparison" between Microsoft's technology and that of the Beehive, Clark said after the meeting.

This disparity she blamed "unquestionably" on the state of New Zealand broadband Internet access, which still uses the outdated copper 'local loop' system. She also referred to the importance of fibre optic networks, which "some are now calling the 'fourth utility'."

Mr Liddell responded that despite New Zealand being behind in some areas, "...the rate of change is such that that is not really such a big issue. ...I don't see New Zealand at a disadvantage and one of the great things about New Zealand is we are early adopters of technology. Attitude is as important as current status."

"We have got what is radical telecommunications legislation reform, but you can't stand still and think that will do the trick either. We have got a lot of technological challenges but I think the will to address them," Ms Clark said.

Unlike other guests, Ms Clark was not given a copy of the new Windows Vista during her visit. Instead, she was given a glass plate and a paperweight.

The visit to Microsoft follows her meeting with United States President Bush.

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