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Microsoft announces 2005 MVPs, summit dates

Chief executive Steve Ballmer is expected to give the keynote address at a summit this year for some of the Most Valuable Professional program's 2,600 members, which include an IT prodigy from Chicago.

A Chicago high school student who helps keep his school's network running is among the 2,600 people worldwide who were given Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional designation for 2005. The award winners come from 81 countries, including the newly represented nations of Jamaica, Ghana, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and tiny Tokelau in the Pacific.

"They really come from a pretty broad range of backgrounds. From students to homemakers and even physicians," said Sean O'Driscoll, global director of the MVP program and technical

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communities at Microsoft. "For some MVPs, technology is their career. For others, it's a passion or a hobby that they have, and one of the ways they exercise that hobby is by helping other people."

The company selects award winners from nominations gathered from a variety of ways, including direct peer nomination.

"The MVP awards really are about a couple of key things," O'Driscoll said. "It starts with what communities customers are most valuing. The latest craze seems to be about blogging. It's really about where customers want to go to interact with each other." Award winners are key contributors to their individual communities with high accuracy and availability. "Are they the person you always see online who's out there answering questions and helping?" he said.

In return for their contributions to the Microsoft user community, the company plans to hold its annual summit for this year's class of MVPs at its headquarters in Redmond, Wash., from Sept. 28 to Oct. 1. MVPs can expect to hear a keynote address from CEO Steve Ballmer, the company said. The event will involve a half-day session of executive presentations and two days of peer-to-peer interaction.

Smaller regional summits are also planned for Asia in April and Prague at the end of February.

"We'll have a pretty strong presence from Microsoft research in Asia. Each individual region event tends to characterize what our capability is and our capacity in that area," O'Driscoll said. The event dates have yet to be decided. "Honestly, the tsunami did affect us a little bit in some of our planning and some of the sites we're considering."

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