Microsoft Corp. chief executive Steve Ballmer on Thursday offered a glimmer of hope to fans of the company's XP operating system, saying customer demand may see the company reconsider a decision to stop selling XP in June. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)
But Ballmer was adamant that "most people who buy PCs today buy them with Vista."
"That's the statistical truth," he told reporters at a press conference at Louvain-La-Neuve university.
"If customer feedback varies, we can always wake up smarter," he said.
Fans of the six-year-old operating system set to be pulled off store shelves by June 30 have papered the Internet with blog posts, cartoons and petitions recently. They trumpet its superiority to Windows Vista, Microsoft's latest PC operating system, whose consumer launch last January was greeted with lukewarm reviews.
Ballmer said the customers buying PCs with XP are IT departments who are having trouble shifting old machines to newer technology.
Some 160,000 people have already signed an online Save XP Web petition who want Microsoft to keep selling it until the next version of Windows is released, currently targeted for 2010.
Ballmer also said he was very confident that Microsoft's $44 billion offer for Yahoo Inc. was "a very good price."
He refused to say if the company plans to appeal against a fine of $1.3 billion that the European Union levied in February.
Microsoft has until the first week of May to launch a legal challenge against the EU decision that it had not obeyed a 2004 antitrust order to share communications information with rivals.
Joking with the press and even breaking into good French, Ballmer acknowledged that he's finding it hard to keep up with social networking on the Facebook Web site.
"I do have a profile on Facebook," he said. "It's hard to keep up. I get many friend requests from people I don't know."
"There's about 10 Steve Ballmers and I'm only one of them. I'm the one who actually has a picture that looks like me on it!" he said. "I'm hitting a golf ball, that's the real Steve Ballmer."
He was in Belgium to open a Microsoft innovation center in Mons that hopes to boost new startups in the country, creating some 200 jobs over the next three years.