Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer spoke yesterday about the importance of Twitter remaining an independent company, although he was careful to not rule out an acquisition.Ballmer was discussing the micro-blogging site and his hopes for Bing in its rivalry with Google at the Search Marketing Expo West event in California.He said that it is important for Microsoft to maintain a "great relationship and partnership" with Twitter, but was slightly more vague about buying the company outright."Whether we need to own the company or not I think is far less clear. In some senses, as an independent, Twitter has a lot of value and a lot of credibility with its user community," he said."Would they have that same credibility with the user community if they were captive? Not clear. And they want to be an independent company, which means we want to have a great partnership with them, and do a good job."Ballmer admitted to having an anonymous Twitter account that he uses to keep track of basketball scores.The Microsoft boss also discussed the competition between Bing and Google in enterprise search, saying that his vision is for Microsoft to lead the market with Yahoo, although he acknowledged that this could take a while."I don't think most people do things with the goal of being second. And yet, I think a fair degree of realism is required about the current state of affairs. Even when you pool the volumes from us and Yahoo, we've got a lot of work to do, and it's a really competitive market," he said."I think one of the things that everybody in the room probably should find great is that the level of competition in search has certainly ramped up over the course of the last couple of years. And in the long run that's going to be great for advertisers, for publishers, and for the searchers themselves."
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