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Ballmer: Tech is economy's eventual savior

In a joint interview with EMC CEO Joe Tucci, Microsoft's chief says technology may not stop the economy from slowing, but it will be a big part of the eventual recovery.

EMC CEO Joe Tucci (left) and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (right) sat down for a joint interview with CNET News Monday in New York. Marguerite Reardon/CNET News
NEW YORK--The tech industry may not stop the economy from slowing, but it will be a big part of the eventual recovery, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said on Tuesday.

"Nothing is going to stop deleveraging; the economy has to reset," Ballmer said, as part of a joint interview with EMC CEO Joe Tucci. "At the same time you've got to say where do you get economic growth. The truth is, you only get economic growth from the following things. Population growth, inflation, productivity increases...and financial leverage."

There's no question, Ballmer said, that there will be a decrease in the overall amount of leverage held by businesses and individuals. "We can't really change that," he said. "Population we don't influence and inflation the government is going to take care of. That leaves you with productivity."

"I think if you did a fair analysis of the last 25 years and said what's has been the top source of productivity gain in the U.S. or world economy, it has been information technology," Ballmer said. "I don't know that we fix the negative factor of deleveraging...but whatever great glimpse of hope comes in large measure from information technology."

Tucci said that the tech industry should also benefit in the nearer term from some of the various stimulus efforts being contemplated in the U.S. and around the globe.

"I think there (are) a few things relative to the stimulus package that everyone agrees with,""Tucci said. "A: we need one B: it should help create jobs. C: maybe it's good to address some of the systemic issues we've had in society for a long time."

All of those augur well for information technology, Tucci said.

"When you think about health care, to solve this problem you are not going to solve this without a lot of information technology...When you think about the issues in education and I could go on and on. I think a lot of the programs that are very likely to make our stimulus package or stimulus packages of other governments around the world, right behind them will be a strong component of information technology."

This is the second of several postings coming from CNET's interview with Tucci and Ballmer, which was conducted by Marguerite Reardon, reporting from New York, and Ina Fried, reporting from San Francisco. Click here for the full interview.