Steve Ballmer, the chief executive of Microsoft, vowing that the company's $6 billion plunge into the ad business two months ago was not just an experiment, said today that advertising would become 25 percent of the company's business within a few years. That, he said, would be about the same amount of time it would take for all media and marketing to go digital. "Over time, all ad money will go through a digital ad platform," Mr. Ballmer told a gathering of European ad agencies and clients. "All media goes digital; all advertising goes digital."
Microsoft became a player in the ad business with its August purchase of aQuantive, which provides a technology that places ever-changing Web site ads in front of Internet viewers, based on specific conditions. Now, Mr. Ballmer is trying to convince media specialists that Microsoft is serious about catching up with Google as the digital brand of choice for advertisers, who spend about $550 billion a year worlwide. Although Ballmer would not comment on rumors that MS was interested in buying a stake in social-networking site Facebook, he did say that Microsoft was not in danger of losing its focus and turning into an entertainment company. "'Brand Microsoft' should be seen as a software competence company," he said, adding that the company had other brands with other roles, like the Xbox game console.
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