Microsoft’s Ballmer: ‘Lucky’ To Not Own Yahoo; Nokia WP7 Devices Next Week

Steve Ballmer

Steve Ballmer knows he dodged a bullet. Not only did the global market collapse just after Yahoo’s Jerry Yang turned down a $44 billion offer from Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) for his company, but Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) is, well, Yahoo.

“You ask any CEO who might have bought something before the market crashed in 2008, ‘would you be glad that you didn’t buy something?’ ‘Hallelujah.'” Ballmer told John Battelle during the closing event of the second day of the Web 2.0 Summit. “Sometimes, you get lucky.”

He went on to describe Yahoo as a valued partner, but the implication was clear that Microsoft would have had a huge problem on its hands, both from a fiscal standpoint and a management standpoint, trying to justify the acquisition of Yahoo in 2011 had it actually happened.

Ballmer also told attendees that Nokia (NYSE: NOK) plans to launch “new devices running Windows Phone” next week at Nokia World, marking the debut of the first Windows Phone 7 handsets produced by Nokia under its partnership with Microsoft. Windows Phone 7 remains an afterthought in the marketplace but Microsoft just launched an update to the software, and Ballmer said he hopes that Microsoft will gain traction now that hardware makers can move into the second-generation of devices built for the software.

Other tidbits from Ballmer’s conversation:

Social: Microsoft’s social-networking strategy involves things like Xbox Live, which has 50 million users, he said. “We’re adding connectivity to people through our core products, sometimes through partnerships and sometimes on our own,” he said, noting the recently completed acquisition of Skype as an example of Microsoft’s social strategy. Of course, Microsoft also made a very shrewd investment deal in Facebook years ago that will someday pay huge dividends.

Android: Ballmer, a famously boisterous interview, got off perhaps his best line of the night when asked what he thought about Google’s Android software, which will take center stage in minutes as Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Samsung roll out a new version of the software.

“You don’t need to be a computer scientist to use a Windows Phone, but I think you do to use Android,” he chortled. Google’s Andy Rubin actually made a similar admission last year at the D: Dive Into Mobile conference, saying that Google had to do a better job catering to non-geeks in 2011.

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