Ballmer: IBM-Sun deal is good for Microsoft

An IBM takeover of Sun Microsystems would give Microsoft a competitive advantage during the time IBM worked to incorporate Sun's copious assets into a combined company, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer said yesterday.

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An IBM takeover of Sun Microsystems would give Microsoft a competitive advantage during the time IBM worked to incorporate Sun's copious assets into a combined company, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer said yesterday.

"We have a lot of competition with IBM and I don't think it will change strategically," he said during an appearance in New York. "I think it gives them a year or two where all they're doing is digesting it. I relish that year."

Ballmer commented on a possible IBM-Sun deal -- reported by The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday -- at the 2009 Media Summit during a keynote in which he responded to questions from BusinessWeek Editor in Chief Steve Adler.

Microsoft's CEO called a purchase by IBM a good "exit strategy" for Sun shareholders, but questioned why IBM might want to purchase Sun. The company has a complex product portfolio, which includes a range of hardware and software products, many of which overlap with IBM's existing portfolio.

"You pick up a lot of stuff when you buy Sun," he said. "You have to decide if you want everything."

Microsoft and IBM compete on a range of business software products, including middleware, application-development infrastructure, database technology and collaboration and workgroup software.

Microsoft's most famous association with Sun is a bitter, seven-year antitrust lawsuit over the Java software-programming language. The two companies resolved the suit in April 2004, with Microsoft paying Sun $2 billion to license Java.

As for the possibility of more acquisitions in Microsoft's future, Ballmer said the company will likely make "10, 15 or 20" small acquisitions -- which he characterised as sub-$500 million and which he said don't necessarily even need his approval -- in the foreseeable future.

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