Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer doesn't think Apple will lead the way to tomorrow's digital home - and describes iPod users as music thieves.

Speaking in London, Ballmer praised Microsoft's own digital rights management technologies, taking the chance to criticise Apple's own implementation. "We’ve had DRM in Windows for years," he said, "the most common format of music on an iPod is ‘stolen'." It's a sign of the increasingly bitter battle between Apple and Microsoft to create the de facto standard for music downloads.

He described the sector as at "tipping point", and predicted massively increased sales for devices that integrate video, audio and computer functions. "We may get a device that can take on critical mass," he said, according to
Ballmer took a swipe at Microsoft's only significant non-Linux OS competitor, as he talked up his company's dominance of the market, a dominance that is currently before the European courts.

"There is no way that you can get there with Apple," he said, "The critical mass has to come from the PC, or a next-generation video device," he said.

He thinks Microsoft's freedom to innovate - and its Media Centres, Players and media playing software will drive the new industry.