Ballmer
AP
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Washington.
updated 6/10/2005 9:29:53 AM ET 2005-06-10T13:29:53

Computer users, beware.  The head of the world's largest software company worries that consumers who make Internet purchases have become too complacent about the risks of financial fraud and stolen identity.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in an interview with The Associated Press that a calm period without significant Internet attacks has lulled computer users, even older Web surfers who traditionally have been more anxious than teenagers about their online safety.

"I don't want trepidation high, but on the other hand I want people aware of what's going on and taking appropriate precautions," Ballmer said Thursday.  "I'm afraid that may have declined, a little too much."

(MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

Ballmer and other technology executives, all part of the Washington-based Business Software Alliance, met in Washington with congressional leaders and members of President Bush's Cabinet to lobby over Internet security, foreign trade and protections against software piracy.

They also met with AP reporters and editors for a broad-ranging conversation about future technologies, downloading music, keeping children away from online smut and general Internet safety.

"Convenience is improving rapidly.  Things I might have been a bit hesitant to do a couple years ago, I'm willing to go a bit further with today even with some security concerns," said Stephen Elop, chief executive at Macromedia Inc., which makes popular drawing software and programs for animating Web sites.

The executives said parents should teach children to avoid the Internet's seedier neighborhoods.  Ballmer said one of his sons carries a laptop to school every day and spends hours online unsupervised.

"We need to oversee and use technology and teach our children what's appropriate," Ballmer said.  "Some of it's still going to have to come from parents kind of teaching their kids what's right.  That was true even before the Internet."

Elop, a father of five, said he uses software tools to protect his kids online.  "But I do not abdicate the responsibility to train my children," he said. " At the end of the day, you have to develop their character and trust them to respond."

Another chief executive, John McEleney of SolidWorks Corp., urged the Supreme Court not to allow expanded copyright lawsuits against manufacturers of file-sharing software popular for stealing music and movies over the Internet. A  decision in the case is expected in coming weeks.

Ballmer joked that his family never downloads songs illegally.  "As I tell my three little boys, our family is going to be as holier than thou when it comes to copyrights as any family around because I have to do this kind of work," Ballmer said.

The executives predicted that future technologies will present important information for consumers using computers, wireless handheld devices, video game systems and television sets.  "I want to be able to see what I need to see whether I'm on my PC or at my TV," Ballmer said.

Borland Software's chief executive, Dale Fuller, described future cars that won't start if a driver is drunk — and automatically will call a cab, notify a driver's spouse and reschedule business appointments early the next morning.  "The solutions just open up wide," Fuller said.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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