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Ballmer showcases a 'responsible' Microsoft

Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer has told the prestigious Washington-based think tank that Microsoft was now stressing integrity, partnerships, the need to act responsibly and the values of company employees.

Speaking at the Brookings Institution two weeks after a federal judge ruled in favour of Microsoft in its antitrust case, Ballmer said: "If you get those basic things right - people, values, working relationships - then I think you've built a foundation for a truly great company."

He repeatedly stressed the company's desire to comply with the settlement, saying Microsoft is "super-focused" on it.

This month, US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected most of the additional remedies sought by the nine non-settling states in favour of a settlement reached last year by the Bush administration and Microsoft.

The company last week said it would accept Kollar-Kotelly's decision, and formed a compliance committee called for in the settlement.

Microsoft continues to face private antitrust lawsuits and a pending action by the European Commission.

Ballmer said Microsoft's new management approach, using leadership teams, emphasises "a great deal of accountability" to its customers and works to ensure that basic values are met by each of its employees.

Microsoft, he said, "is committed to being upfront about what we are doing, who it effects [and being] open and communicating about every aspect of our business. We're dedicated to being a responsible leader in our industry."

The company has no choice but to change, said one antitrust expert. "We will see a kinder, gentler Microsoft in the public arena," said Hillard Sterling, an attorney at Much Shelist Freed Denenberg Ament & Rubenstein. "Its competitors will keep Microsoft under the microscope, and Microsoft can't avoid close scrutiny.

"Nevertheless, there lurks a savvy and smart monopolist under these covers," he said. "Microsoft knows how to talk about responsibility, yet competes aggressively."

Ballmer said the company plans to increase its spend on research and development by 15% to $5bn (£3.15bn) this year.

Microsoft "is aggressively looking to compete in new markets, as well as win stronger positions in the markets it already competes in," said Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at IDC.

The company is extending into markets that include various types of media, software that facilitates services, embedded devices used in mobile phones and software that runs in personal digital assistants and others.

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