Ballmer: Innovation key to Microsoft success

Internal memos produced in EU court this week may tell another story, but Microsoft's chief insists it is just making products people 'really like'

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has hit back at claims that the company's dominance of the desktop PC market is no longer in the best interests of consumers.

Speaking at the annual Institute of Directors' conference at the Royal Albert Hall in London on Wednesday, Ballmer said Microsoft's dominance is based not on any abuse of its market position but purely on producing compelling products that consumers and businesses want to buy.

He said: "Why is Microsoft a big company? Microsoft is not successful because we are big. We did something that people really like. People wanted it and they bought it."

Microsoft is currently embroiled in a long-running legal battle with the European Commission over an antitrust ruling. The EC is seeking to force the software giant to open up its closely guarded operating system code to rivals.

Looking to the future Ballmer said Microsoft's success and long-term survival will be based on innovation and "big, bold goals" rather than the company's size. He said: "Our size will not be our saviour. It will be our ability to do things that are compelling."

Demonstrating a new Microsoft mobile device, Ballmer said the vision of a single integrated handheld device will be a reality for most people in the next few years for just over £100 or "several hundred dollars".

He said: "I do see convergence of email, web browsing, phone, music, entertainment all on a single device. That will happen to all of us in the next few years."

The fact that more paper is being used now than 10 years ago is another "quest" that is currently inspiring Microsoft employees to push for a truly paperless office, he added.

Ballmer acknowledged the role the company's employees play in Microsoft's success but said organisations always need to be asking themselves if they "can do better".

He said: "A good programmer is 10 times more productive than an average programmer. You have to hunt out and find the best around the world. We look for people who are incredibly bright and hard working."

As a big sports fan Ballmer was asked whether he had any plans to follow other billionaires — such as Roman Abramovic — and invest money in a UK football team.

He joked: "No chance. I would have to learn where a midfielder stands."