Customers watching for Microsoft to make a headline-grabbing buy in the applications market faced disappointment as company CEO Steve Ballmer ruled out acquisitions of PeopleSoft, Oracle and SAP.

"We like our current strategy of competing aggressively in the small and medium-sized enterprise space," Ballmer said, fielding a volley of questions about potential acquisition targets at the Microsoft Executive Partner Summit in Lisbon.

The queries were prompted by Microsoft's admission in June that it had been in talks to buy German software powerhouse SAP, and by its repeated emphasis on its ambitions in the business applications market.

But with a derisive tone, Ballmer ruled out any acquisition plans for Microsoft's rivals at the high end of that market.

He emphasised that it was Microsoft that initiated and broke off the talks with SAP, saying the partnership would not have been a good fit. "We passed on SAP. They don't really have a platform," he said.

As for Oracle, he said the company lacked an operating system, and that even if it managed to take over PeopleSoft it would still be way behind SAP in the enterprise applications business.

Ballmer's remarks came as the company talked up its business applications plans to partners in Europe, predicting that it will be a lucrative market in the coming years. And while a large takeover looks unlikely for Microsoft, Ballmer said he expects to see further consolidation and that Microsoft is open to smaller buys.

"We see an incredible road map of opportunity ahead," he said.