Steve Ballmer: Android is too wild and iOS is too tightly controlled

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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently sat down with LinkedIn co-founder and venture capitalist Reid Hoffman at a Churchill Club event to discuss a wide variety of tech topics. Of particular interest during the chat were Ballmer’s comments on the top players in the mobile space.

Specifically, Redmond’s chief said Google’s Android ecosystem was a little wild, pointing out compatibility issues and vulnerability to malware as two serious problems. He believes these problems are directly related to having multiple versions of Android out in the wild and having a large number of manufacturers that produce hardware running the operating system.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ballmer noted that Apple has tight control over their system and prices are quite high. He pointed to the $1,000 MSRP of an iPhone in Russia. Thinking out loud, he asked how one could get a premium product in a more relaxed ecosystem without paying a fortune for it. His answer, of course, was a clever segue into discussing Windows Phone 8.

Ballmer said that wireless providers around the world are only really interested in three vendors. Apple and Samsung have the high-end market on lock but there’s also a flood of low-end devices as a cheaper alternative.

He essentially feels this customer set should be able to get a great phone with great software as well. It’s Microsoft's (and seemingly, Nokia's) strategy with Lumia as even the high-end 920 will only set you back $99 with a typical two-year service agreement.

Ultimately he is a realist and knows that Windows Phone 8 won’t be an instant success. “There is unmet need from operators and, from a consumer perspective, a lot of room for innovation,” he said. “The challenge is to get 10 percent of the smartphone market, and then 15 percent, and then 20 percent. We aren't trying to get to 60 percent overnight.”

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