Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer says the company is posed to grow its profits by $6 billion over the next four years – equivalent to "a whole Nokia, a whole Siemens, potentially a whole Intel".

Speaking at a financial analyst meeting Ballmer and Microsoft chairman Bill Gates stressed that it is necessary for the company to make "big bets" and invest in areas beyond those that have traditionally provided Microsoft with the bulk of its revenue and profit, according to a Cnet report.

The company was unwilling to share details of Longhorn, the next version of the Windows operating system, although the company had originally promised that a beta version would be made available in the first half of next year. Gates said: "We're not saying much new about Longhorn today, it's fair to say," adding that the beta version "will ship sometime next year".