At the end of an IT conference in London Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer laughed off Apple as a cult, and said he preferred his company's 97 percent market share to Apple's sex appeal.
CIO editor Martin Veitch interviewed Ballmer after his keynote speech at the pithily named "Technologies to Change Your Business: How Customers Are Implementing Tomorrow's Strategies Today" conference.
Discussing the Zune, Veitch mentioned the power of the Apple brand in the success of the iPod: "It seems to me to be a tricky one because Apple is out there, and they have a pretty good product - but also they have this kind of cult following of people who are just going to buy, because it's Apple. That must be a frustrating thing to compete against."
Ballmer replied to huge roars of laughter from the assembled IT pros: "They may have a cult following in the music business, and we got about 97 percent of PC users using our stuff. 97 percent may not constitute a cult! But I wouldn't trade that for a cult!"
Ballmer defended the reasons why Microsoft developed the Zune MP3 player.
"All content is going digital. And if we don't have the software and services that are useful, helpful and valuable for the consumption of music and video, we are sort of not really a player," he said.
"We built the Zune hardware with the Zune software - and what you'll see more and more over time is that the Zune software will also be ported to and be more important not just with the hardware but on the PC, on Windows Mobile devices, etc."
Ballmer sprang to his feet and jumped up and down, screaming "IT pros!!! IT pros!!!" to the amusement of all (pictured above).