The increasing take-up of open source on the desktop will drive Microsoft to create better products in response, the software giant said on Wednesday.
Bradley Tipp, Microsoft's national system engineer, told the Linux User and Developer conference in London that competition was good for the whole software industry and would lead to better products emerging from Redmond.
"The thing I like is that Microsoft does its best work and is most innovative when it has competition, so bring it on," said Tipp.
Tipp's comments echoed the view expressed on Tuesday by Matt Asay, director of Linux business office at Novell, when he claimed that the lack of alternative desktop operating systems had given Microsoft little incentive to improve its software range.
Tipp appeared as part of a debate at the conference, where a number of players in the open-source scene, including Asay, gave their view on the future of Linux on the desktop.
Asay told the event that Linux's penetration into the desktop market mirrored the progress it made in the server space three or four years ago.
"There's probably not real competition on the desktop today," said Asay. "In a year, or two years, we'll see frantic competition."
Robin Wilton, programme manager for Sun's Java Desktop System group, said that Linux's strengthening grip on the desktop market had many benefits.
"We will see increased choice and competition. It's a positive outcome," Wilton said.
One show attendee flagged up how difficult it is to buy a laptop that doesn't come with proprietary software already installed.
Jeremy Allison, of the Samba team at Hewlett-Packard, agreed that this is a problem, and admitted that the first thing he had done with his work laptop was to reformat it and remove Windows.
"I was annoyed that I couldn't get a refund. It's a scandal that you can't do that," said Allison.
He added that HP recently said it would ship laptops with a version of Linux pre-installed and predicted that the IT industry would soon see "much more from HP in that area".