Ballmer: The ‘BRIC’ Will Grow

SEATTLE — Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said the company sees growth opportunities in emerging countries and the shift to digital advertising.

At the company’s annual shareholder meeting today, Ballmer said Microsoft’s sales in “BRIC” countries — Brazil, Russia, India and China — will grow to almost $3 billion in fiscal 2008 ending in June from about $1 billion three years ago.

It is still only a small percentage of Microsoft’s estimated total revenue of close to $60 billion this year, but the company is working to increase revenue in those countries with new business models and better piracy control measures.

Ballmer reiterated the company’s goal to be an advertising “powerhouse,” saying that the $600 billion market for global advertising is moving to digital formats.

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft surpassed even Wall Street’s most bullish forecast with strong first-quarter earnings boosted by healthy demand for computers and the introduction of the hit video game title “Halo 3.”

“We’re confident that we can continue this momentum throughout this coming year,” said Ballmer. “We’re looking forward to a phenomenal holiday season.”

At the meeting, Microsoft shareholders approved 10 directors to the board including eight independent members.

At the board’s recommendation, the shareholders also voted down two proposals, defeating one to stop doing business with governments that censor Internet use and another to establish a board committee for human rights.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates attended his last shareholder meeting as a full-time employee of the company he founded with childhood friend Paul Allen. Gates plans to switch to a part-time role at Microsoft in June, although he will remain the company’s chairman.

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