Ballmer: “We’ve picked our play” in social with Skype deal

Steve Ballmer, chief executive of Microsoft, said in a very loud conversation with co-host John Battelle at the Web 2.0 Summit that his company has made a big bet on social through both Skype and Xbox Live. Ballmer used his signature booming voice to hammer home his points in a comical conversation.

Microsoft hasn’t launched what some people expected it to do: a social network that competes with the likes of Facebook or Twitter. Ballmer was mum about any such possibility. But he said that the company has made its mark in social in the more broadly defined meaning of the word.

Asked if Microsoft had decided to “punt on social,” Ballmer said that the company has more than 50 million gamers on Xbox Live and those players are being very social as they play with each other. He also said that the Skype acquisition is also a big bet on social, since that represents a way for people to talk to the people who are closest to them.

“There are a variety of things that fall under the social banner,” he said. “We have picked our play. We are adding connectivity for people. We will continue to push with the acquisition of Skype….We don’t have to take on every battle here. We take on unique opportunities to innovate.”

Asked if “hangouts” in Google+ is a threat to Skype, Ballmer said, “If you want to hang around with people, we have a way to support that” in Skype.

He said that Bing search is growing its market share in competition with Google, grabbing about 15 percent of the U.S. search market. Through its partnership with Yahoo, it has grown market share from a couple of years ago. Asked if he was glad he didn’t buy Yahoo in 2008 for $44 billion (the market value is now at $19 billion), Ballmer said, “You can ask any CEO about the market falling apart in 2008. If Yahoo had accepted our bid, we would have closed post-Lehman Bros. (falling apart).”

He paused and then boomed, “Sometimes you’re lucky!”

As for the cloud, Ballmer said, “All in baby!”


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