We're just getting revved up, Ballmer tells Irish

Dublin jolly for jovial Steve

As the launch of the Xbox 360 nears, Steve Ballmer told Irish journalists that Microsoft is "poised for leadership in the next generation console market".

The Microsoft boss was in Dublin on Friday as part of a tour of the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Asia) region. In jovial mood, Ballmer said that the software firm had a rich pipeline of products on the way in 2006 including Windows Vista, the latest version of Office, Windows Mobile, new security products as well as new server infrastructure and management products.

Looking to the end of this year Ballmer admitted he was feeling "pretty good" about the launch of the Xbox 360 in December. "We have 28 per cent market share here while Sony has around 50 per cent share, but we're launching months before the next generation PlayStation and we have great online play with the Xbox, something Sony doesn't have," said Ballmer.

Ballmer was equally unconcerned with competitors such as Google, despite recent moves by the search engine, which have seen it muscle in on a number of Microsoft's areas such as webmail, instant messenger, and recent rumours about the launch of Google Office.

When asked what his analysis was of the recent link up between Sun and Google to promote Sun's OpenOffice, Ballmer said that Microsoft had been competing against OpenOffice for years and will continue to do so. "This latest deal doesn't change anything as it stands," he said. "It's not going to have a momentous impact on the market."

While admitting that Google is at the top of its game in the advertising world, Ballmer dismissed the firm as a threat to Microsoft. When asked what he would answer if someone were to say to him that Google was Microsoft's biggest ever threat, Ballmer said "that's not true."

Ballmer also took the opportunity to re-affirm the company's commitment to Ireland and its operations here. He praised Ireland's talent pool, a factor he said was vital for the success of Microsoft's new Irish research and development centre.

"We have 30 employees at the centre currently and that will rise to 100 in the next 12 months," Ballmer said. "We're just getting revved up."

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