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July 24, 2008 9:23 AM

Ballmer: Online losses worthwhile, it's Microsoft vs Google

Posted by Brier Dudley

Tomorrow's online market opportunities are so great, it's worth losing a relatively small amount of money today investing in the business, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said at today's analyst meeting.

Ballmer said there's a $1 trillion market being transformed by the Internet and Microsoft is one of the best-positioned companies to capitalize on the digitization of content, communities and communication.

"As we go out five, 10 years from -- literally, within 10 years -- you'll have digital screens that are this light and this thin [waving a sheet of paper] and connected to the Internet. I will not bring paper. every surface we walk up to and touch will be a window to the world of digital information ... the question is what companies are really going to invest in the big opportunities around this?"

A few minutes later he answered the question:

"I think there's really only two companies on the planet that have the capability and the staying power -- Google and Microsoft."

Ballmer's not sure how long it will take for Microsoft's online business investments to pay off, but he let the Wall Street analysts know he's not going to take his foot off the accelerator.

The message: Don't fret about losses in the online business group.

"It's a relatively small percentage investment from an overall Microsoft standpoint in order to have a real opportunity at significant overall acceleration of our market value,'' he said.

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.