At a Linux conference in London, the giant of proprietary software says the growing popularity of open source on the desktop will drive it to create better products.
Bradley Tipp, Microsoft's national system engineer, told the LinuxUser & Developer Expo in London that competition is good for the whole software industry and will lead to better products emerging from Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft.
"The thing I like is that Microsoft does its best work and is most innovative when it has competition, so bring it on," Tipp said.
Tipp's comments were the flipside to the view expressed Tuesday by Matt Asay, director of Linux business at Novell, when he asserted that the lack of alternative desktop operating systems had given Microsoft little incentive to improve its software range.
Tipp appeared as part of a debate at the conference, where a number of players in the open-source scene, including Asay, gave their view on the future of Linux on the desktop.
Asay told the event that Linux's penetration into the desktop market will mirror the progress it made in the server space three or four years ago.
"There's probably not real competition on the desktop today," said Asay. "In a year or two years, we'll see frantic competition."
Robin Wilton, program manager for Sun's Java Desktop System group, said Linux's strengthening grip on the desktop market had many benefits.
"We will see increased choice and competition. It's a positive outcome," Wilton said.
One show attendee noted how difficult it is to buy a laptop that doesn't come with proprietary software already installed.
Jeremy Allison, of the Samba team at Hewlett-Packard, said this is a problem and acknowledged that the first thing he had done with his work laptop was to reformat it and remove Windows.
"I was annoyed that I couldn't get a refund. It's a scandal that you can't do that," Allison said.
He added that HP recently said it will ship laptops with a version of Linux preinstalled and predicted that the IT industry would soon see "much more from HP in that area."
Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from London.