It's been a strange old week here at CIO Towers. Regular readers of this site (and even some irregular ones) will know that this reporter considers himself merely a recorder of the shifting sands of the technology sector and its implications for business. Lacking the gonzo tendencies of a Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer or Tom Wolfe I have been content to be an anonymous, invisible hack, perched on a stool somewhere filing my daily copy. However, on Wednesday and by a curious twist of fate, I found myself quite close close to a news event .

This is how it happened: a few weeks ago, I was invited by Microsoft to interview CEO Steve Ballmer on stage in front of an audience of IT professionals and, to cut a long story short, a couple of days ago I found myself on stage in front of about 700 folks. In theory, all the questions were to come from the audience but I tossed a few in myself and, in an age where risk aversion is seen as a positive character trait, some of the answers were pretty spectacular.

Credit to Steve Ballmer. His presentation included some genuine news (Microsoft's plans to create a cloud version of Windows) and his comments were direct and exceptionally good-humoured. Among the highlights: Microsoft could extend Zune software to run on Windows Mobile devices; the belief that Intel is hitting a performance wall; Microsoft plans to run datacentres to serve cloud computing customers; and the implicit admission that customers didn't appreciate Vista compatibility issues. The Web Pitch has a video here and the news travelled far and wide, even making it to the hallowed top story spot in Techmeme. Crumbs, I didn't even get that when writing for The Inquirer .

A lot of CEOs have the sense of humour of a newt but I warmed to Steve Ballmer. He didn't mind being asked if we would appear with Jerry Seinfeld in an advert, or my feigning to believe that the sitcom star had died. Neither did he mind -- after suggesting that any Microsoft bid for VMware would alert regulators -- my quip that he must already know them pretty well. And anyway, how many other CEOs will make chimp noises (on my suggesting that VMware is the 800-pound gorilla of virtualisation), or stand on a stage and repeat 'IT pros' several times on request?