Microsoft CEO says catching Google is goal

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp MSFT.O Chief Executive Steve Ballmer pledged on Thursday the company would gain share against Google Inc GOOG.O in online advertising and Web searching, even if it's his "last breath" at the company.

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer addresses a news conference in the northern German town of Hanover March 3, 2008. Ballmer pledged on Thursday he will gain share against Google in online advertising and Web searching even if it is in his "last breath" at the company. REUTERS/Christian Charisius

Speaking at Microsoft's MIX08 online technology conference in Las Vegas, Ballmer reiterated the justifications for its$41.2 billion unsolicited offer for Yahoo Inc YHOO.O, saying the deal would accelerate its efforts to build a competitor to Google.

"So it may be my last breath at Microsoft, but we're going to be there, working away, building share," said Ballmer during a bantering question-and-answer session with Guy Kawasaki, a venture capitalist and one of the first employees at Apple Inc AAPL.O.

“In online, yeah, it’s Google, Google, Google, and we’re in the game. We’re just the little engine that could,” joked Ballmer, whose company is the world’s largest software maker.

In the wide-ranging chat with Kawasaki, Ballmer addressed criticism about Windows Vista, launched a few subtle jabs at Apple, and even re-enacted an infamous dance that earned him Web video fame and earned him the unflattering nickname of “Monkey Boy” in some Internet circles.

He didn’t, however, have much to say about the company’s offer for Yahoo. Microsoft has proposed buying Yahoo for $31 a share in cash and stock. Yahoo’s board has rejected the bid, saying it undervalued the company.

“We’ve made an offer, and it’s out there, baby,” said Ballmer. The deal was originally worth $44.6 billion, but Microsoft’s stock slide has pushed down its value.

The Microsoft CEO said if a deal should go through, the two companies will look to reduce overlapping areas.

“We shouldn’t have two of everything. It won’t make sense to have two search services, two advertising services, two mail services, and we will have to sort some of that through,” said Ballmer.

Kawasaki did not hesitate to bring up past embarrassing moments for Ballmer, including references in an lawsuit that claimed Ballmer threw a chair at a former employee who said he was leaving Microsoft for Google.

“Don’t pick up a chair and throw it at me,” Kawasaki said with a laugh. “Don’t go monkey on me either.”

At one point, Kawasaki asked Ballmer if he viewed Apple like a Chihuahua that Microsoft kicks off its leg from time to time. Ballmer proceeded to yelp like a dog before praising Apple.

Later, in response to Ballmer’s statement that Apple “punted” in Web services, Kawasaki, known for his ardent support of Apple products, said Apple may argue that Microsoft has punted in operating systems, a reference to some consumer dissatisfaction with the new Windows Vista operating system.

“They’d be wrong. Every day, statistically they’d be wrong. Last time I checked, there were a lot of governments that think we have a very high market share,” said Ballmer, who joked earlier that Kawasaki’s super-thin Apple MacBook Air lacked half the features of a PC.

Reporting by Daisuke Wakabayashi, editing by Tim Dobbyn/Jeffrey Benkoe