David Ignatius's recent suggestion that my being named CEO of Microsoft somehow frees the company to settle the lawsuit by breaking itself up glosses over several key points [op-ed, Jan. 16].

First, the company's recent management changes will not change Microsoft's approach to settlement. Microsoft would love to resolve this lawsuit and will continue to work hard at the mediation process. Like Bill Gates, I remain committed to finding a reasonable resolution that is good for Microsoft, good for the industry and good for consumers.

However, breaking up Microsoft would be bad for the company, bad for the industry and, most important, bad for consumers. Just 20 years ago, computers were costly, complex and found only in corporate information-technology departments. Today, they are cheap (and getting cheaper), easy to use and found in millions of homes, offices and classrooms around the world. America's PC industry is the envy of the rest of the world. That's thanks to the innovation, technical interoperability and competition fostered by Microsoft and the rest of the industry. As I said recently, any proposal to dismantle Microsoft would be irresponsible.

It's disheartening to see a handful of pundits and special interests campaigning for such extreme regulations against Microsoft. It's especially ironic that anyone is talking about breaking up the company when AOL and Time Warner have just announced the biggest merger in history, aimed at competing directly with Microsoft on many fronts.

Mr. Ignatius is correct: My job is to realize value for shareholders. The best way to do that is to use the creativity of people throughout Microsoft with different perspectives and skills. Given the challenges and opportunities facing Microsoft and the industry, our current structure is the right one.

STEVE BALLMER

President and CEO

Microsoft Corp.

Redmond, Wash.