'Microsoft ain't broke, so don't tinker with it'

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Warren Buffett backed Bill Gates and Microsoft yesterday, with a message to the US government that said: "Microsoft ain't broke, so don't fix it."

Addressing his shareholders a day after US Justice Department officials told a judge that Microsoft should be split into two, Mr Buffett said the break-up would damage one of the America's strongest economic engines - the development of technology. "That development is going to get more and more important for this country to be the world leader in," Mr Buffett said. "We've got something working very well that doesn't make sense to tinker with."

Mr Buffett said Microsoft has helped the US regain the economic ground it lost in the 1970s and 1980s. "The Japanese and the Germans were eating our lunch. And now we've just swept the world aside."

Mr Buffett has been a close friend of Bill Gates for almost a decade. Charles Munger, vice-chairman of his Berkshire Hathaway fund, also lashed out at the government investigation. "We finally get huge leadership and someone drawing a paycheck from the US government gets the bright idea to weaken it," Mr Munger said, to the loudest applause in the Berkshire annual meeting.

He also mocked the idea of penalising Microsoft for developing new products. "It's hard for me see why Microsoft is sinful for trying to improve products over time," Mr Munger said, again receiving huge applause. "If that's a sin, it's one every company in Berkshire should be committing."