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JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon at Microsoft's CEO Summit this week. (Microsoft photo)

The top executives of Wal-Mart, Xerox, Procter & Gamble, Geico, Berkshire Hathaway, Costco, JP Morgan Chase, Ford and more than 100 other big companies from 29 countries have descended on Redmond this week for an annual Microsoft tradition known as the CEO Summit.

It’s the 15th time Microsoft has held the event, dating back to 1997. In addition to giving Warren Buffet and Bill Gates an opportunity to play marathon games of bridge until all hours of the night, the CEO Summit is traditionally a chance for Microsoft to play host to discussions among some of the most powerful people in business. In the process, the event also helps the company keep its products at the front of their minds.

For example, back in 2003, long before the iPad existed, Microsoft gave all of the CEOs in attendance at the summit new Tablet PC sin an attempt to give the then-fledgling initiative better momentum in the corporate world. (And just look how well that turned out!)

Another CEO Summit tradition has historically been dinner at Gates’ house.

The confab has long been held behind closed doors, to allow the executives to speak candidly, although the company in years past has allowed reporters to watch presentations by Gates or Steve Ballmer via closed-circuit television or webcast.

Microsoft COO Kevin Turner and Geico CEO Tony Nicely

But for whatever reason, this year’s CEO Summit has been one of the lowest-profile in the history of the event. However, Microsoft is offering a some details — including highlights of the subjects being discussed, and a partial attendee list.

One of the attendees on that list — Robin Li, CEO of China’s leading search engine, Baidu — is particularly interesting given the rumors over the weekend that Microsoft and Baidu are in talks about a possible partnership in the country.

According to the company, discussion topics this year include …

  • “Finding Growth, Dealing with Disruption: Looking beyond quarterly earnings to find long-term, sustainable paths to high-margin growth in the midst of a volatile external environment.”
  • “The Energy Opportunity: No forces are more important to the vitality of the 21st century world than energy supply and demand.”
  • “The Future of Health: New policies, digital media, the ongoing revolution in monitoring and managing people’s health.”
  • “21st Century Leadership Strategies: Rapid tech innovation, ultra-powered consumers and web-enabled social dynamics.”

Ballmer delivered his speech earlier today. Describing the speech in advance, the company said Ballmer would “explore areas of Microsoft where the improbable is becoming the possible and what approaches are being applied to make it happen.”

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