The questions led into a discussion of Linux, with Bittmann observing that theres a market perception that Linux is more secure. "Its just not true," Ballmer responded. "Were more secure than the other guys. There are more vulnerabilities in Linux; it takes longer for Linux developers to fix security problems. Its a good decision to go with Windows."Ballmer blamed the reason for people thinking Linux is more secure on Microsofts popularity. "People hackers hack for fame. If there were fame in hacking Linux, it too will get hacked."Moving on to open source, Ballmer denied that open source or Linux could be better than Microsoft and its proprietary ways. "Im happy to tell you why I think what we do is better than what any of our competitors can do," he said. "I think we do deliver more value, we can stand behind our products in ways that open source cant. "Who do you talk to for improvements in open source? No one indemnifies for IP [intellectual property] issues. If Microsoft has to pay off Eolas, which has a $500 million judgment against us, well do it. But, with Linux, youd pay. Where do you go for support?" For more on the Microsoft and Eolas patent battle, click here. "That doesnt mean the other thing shouldnt exist," he said. "If we arent better, Ill tell my people to make us better. "There is no real Linux presence on the desktop anywhere in the world," Ballmer continued. "There is no ROI [return on investment] case for the city of Paris. You hear all these stories, but theres nothing real there." Ballmer did concede, however, "Yes, there is the city of Munich. Yes, we lost it. But the story keeps getting told over and over again, and Munich is still dithering around with Linux." Why is Munich reconsidering its Linux migration? Find out here. Ballmer said that people also talk about open source and China, but even there, he maintained, "in China, Microsoft is predominant. Of course, in most cases, no one has paid for it." From there, Ballmer talked about this vision for Microsofts Office System. "To a lot of people, Office is a spreadsheet, e-mailits not. It should be the product to help any knowledge worker do any work they need to do. Its search; its natural language; its communication. This morning Microsoft announced Istanbul [its integrated instant messaging and telephony client for its Live Communications Server]. To me, its just another part of Office because it helps knowledge workers do their business." When asked if this locked users into Microsoft solutions, Ballmer replied that it didnt. "Its not closed. We can make it open to work with other partners." This is all part of a larger strategy. In it, Ballmer described a world where workers would use Outlook as a base station to do workflow work with Siebel CRM (customer relationship management) software. In short, Ballmers vision of office work in the future is one where Office becomes the gateway to all business process software. That doesnt mean, however, that Microsoft is going after all IT business. Speaking of Microsofts own business lineGreat Plains and so onBallmer said Microsoft sells "those products to small companies, like a six-person non-profit in D.C., to medium-sized companies and divisions of large enterprise. Were not bidding on re-engineering the supply chain for GM. So, while we target companies that include businesses in the 1 billion to 3 billion range, we recognize the boundaries." When asked about Microsofts relationship with Sun Microsystems Inc., he said, "Weve made six months of work in six months." The one area Ballmer said anything concrete on the former adversaries partnership is that the two has made progress on identity management. Still, Ballmer said he hopes to have something concrete to announce soon. Toward the end of the fast-moving Q&A session, Ballmer also talked about subscription pricing. "You could say we already offer it to business customers today with enterprise licensing. It can be done by the number of employees or PCs." Closing on a light note, Ballmer addressed perhaps the most burning question of the day, which came from a boy, who had asked him in a Gartner produced tape, "Can you tell me about the weapon mods in Halo II?" Ballmer replied, "Have him send me a note; Ill make sure he gets a copy of Halo II." Check out eWEEK.coms Windows Center for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.