"I say to our people we want to be a trustworthy Microsoft in a world of trustworthy computing," Ballmer said in a speech at the official opening of the CeBit technology trade show in the German city of Hannover.
Ballmer, head of a company that has been embroiled in long-running legal action in the United States over its dominant Windows software, acknowledged that Microsoft "has no perfect track record" in the areas of trustworthiness.
His comments came after it emerged that Microsoft had offered an olive branch to the European Commission by saying it would open up some information that the Commission alleged it unfairly kept secret to make life tough for rivals.
Microsoft reached a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department in November after an appeals court in June upheld a lower court finding that Microsoft had used illegal tactics to maintain its Windows monopoly.
Nine states refused to sign the agreement and argued that a tougher remedy than that proposed by the Justice Department is required. Last week, a judge in Washington overseeing the case expressed misgivings about the breadth of the states' demands.
Only recently had it become clear to Microsoft that, as an industry leader, it needed to behave differently, Ballmer told 2,500 guests in the Hannover congress center ahead of the first day of the trade fair on Wednesday.
"We need to be a responsible leader for our industry. We have to be engaged with our industry. We have to be a respectful, open and appropriate competitor," Ballmer said.
"With governments we need to be much more involved and need to recognize that there are many more policy issues with our industry," he said.
Not only should Microsoft change its own behavior, it should also help to make computing more secure and reliable, he added, addressing issues that have become even more pressing since the attacks in the United States on Sept. 11.
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