Ballmer on Bing, Xbox, Apple...oh, and Yahoo, too

Microsoft's chief executive discusses Bing, Apple, and Yahoo (briefly) at the Web 2.0 Summit.

Steve Ballmer at the 2011 Web 2.0 Summit James Martin/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO--Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer isn't one to mince words, and he certainly offered many candid opinions while speaking at the Web 2.0 Summit this evening.

Here's a rundown of Ballmer's thoughts on a number of topics involving Microsoft and its competitors:

Bing
Bing still has a small slice of the search market share pie, but Ballmer stood strong that Bing has seen a nice rise in the last few years.

"We went from the number three player to the number two player," Ballmer said happily, attributing part of that rise to the search deal with Yahoo.

Ballmer challenged audience members to test searches between Google and Bing, positing that Bing "sets the foundation" reestablishing the search category.

"The core notion in Bing is about understanding the world in a variety of different ways," Ballmer said, explaining understanding extends to geography, time and people while respecting their privacy.

Xbox Live
Although the shift in conversation might have been unintentional, Ballmer stated that Facebook "defines social," but that there are many aspects that need to be addressed in helping people communicate with the people they love.

Xbox Live, for example, is different, but it seems highly social--as well as valuable--to Ballmer.

"You want people to be able to connect with each other. You want them to be able to have an identity," Ballmer said, adding that Xbox Live personas can be connected to Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks that focus on user identities.

Kinect, in particular, has proven to be a huge success for Microsoft, basically breathing an entire new life into the Xbox 360 console with new powers for everything ranging from social to education.

This holiday season, Ballmer said we can expect a whole lot more innovation revolving around Kinect and Xbox Live.

The Cloud
"We're all in," Ballmer said simply. But that didn't stop him from naming Microsoft's chief rival in this field: Google. But Ballmer made it seem that the Goog presents competition mainly when it comes to cloud-based apps more than anything else.

"Apps is the leading edge. Customers are far more mature about accepting apps in the cloud than platforms in the cloud," Ballmer argued.

Windows Phone 8
John Battelle, founder and chairman of Federated Media Publishing, asked Ballmer during the sit-down interview to sell him on why someone should buy a Microsoft device over an Apple product.

Focusing on smartphones, Ballmer said that consumers are going to see two phones this holiday season (without specifying either). Besides seeing first-rate, beautifully designed smartphones on the outside, he argued that they'll find something much more enticing with Windows Phone 8 when they can grab the phone, use it, and realize the notion of putting your information front and center.

"It's not seas of icons. Add a button. Click," Ballmer said. "Bing is there to help you get things done."

Apple has done nice things with Siri, Ballmer conceded, but he argued that technology touches on projects Microsoft has been working on for years.

Yahoo
One topic that Ballmer wouldn't offer a direct response about was Yahoo--especially as the Redmond, Wash.-based corporation is announcing quarterly earnings on Thursday.

"You can ask me that question any week and get the same answer," Ballmer replied, about whether Microsoft was interested in buying Yahoo again.

When asked how he felt about not buying Yahoo before, he replied coyly that any company, in retrospect, would be happy that it did not make a huge acquisition right before the economic downturn started in 2008.

Ballmer concluded, "Sometimes, you're lucky."

This item first appeared on ZDNet's Between the Lines blog.

 

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