Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer has insisted that the Redmond company could become as big a force online as Google before he dies. He confirmed that consolidation was the key if the purchase of Yahoo goes ahead.

Ballmer, always the extrovert, made the claims at Microsoft’s MIX08 conference as he verbally sparred with former Apple employee Guy Kawasaki about the state of play in the increasingly influential online world.

Last breath

"So it may be my last breath at Microsoft, but we're going to be there, working away, building share," said Ballmer.

"In online, yeah, it's Google, Google, Google, and we're in the game. We're just the little engine that could."

With Yahoo still fighting a hostile takeover bid from Microsoft, Ballmer is keen to show that the company is repositioning itself as an online force. It's a stance backed up by the launch of Office Online and the growth of Silverlight

Job fears

Inevitably, the takeover plans have prompted fears from both Microsoft and Yahoo staff that departments would be merged, leading to job cuts. And Ballmer did little to alleviate the concerns.

"We shouldn't have two of everything. It won't make sense to have two search services, two advertising services, two mail services, and we will have to sort some of that through," said Ballmer.

The full webcast of Ballmer's Q&A with Kawasaki can be viewed at Microsoft's site.