SAN FRANCISCO (CNNMoney) -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer famously doesn't hold back, and a tech conference on Tuesday proved to be no exception.
Ballmer expressed relief that Microsoft failed to buy Yahoo a few years ago -- and added that "you need to be a computer scientist" to use Android. He made the comments while speaking at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.
Moderator John Battelle asked Ballmer point-blank: "Are you glad you didn't buy Yahoo?" He was referring to Microsoft's unsolicited $47.5 billion offer back in 2008, which Yahoo (Fortune 500) snubbed -- a move that sparked Yahoo shareholder anger and led to co-founder Jerry Yang stepping down from the CEO post.,
Ballmer laughed at the question and said: "You know, times change. When you ask any CEO [that type of question] after the market has fallen apart, it's 'hallelujah.'"
With some prodding from Battelle, Ballmer added: "Sometimes, you're lucky."
Still, Ballmer was quick to say Yahoo "still has a lot going for them," including its search deal with Microsoft's Bing. Microsoft's technology underpins Yahoo's search site, in return for a sizable chunk of the site's advertising sales.
Ballmer was less kind to Microsoft's rivals in the smartphone business.
"Why should I buy a Windows phone instead of an iPhone?" Battelle asked.
Ballmer said the Windows Phone 7 difference lies in the user interface: "The notion of putting your own information front and center....it's not a sea of icons."
He acknowledged some of Apple's (Fortune 500) strengths, saying "there's certainly some nice things Apple's done with [speech-activated virtual assistant] Siri, but we've been doing the same kinds of things for years.",
Google's Android didn't fare as well.
"You don't need to be a computer scientist to use a Windows phone. I think you do to use an Android phone," Ballmer said.
But he stopped short of confirming that Microsoft will develop its own smartphone hardware to go head-to-head with Apple -- and, soon, with Google (Fortune 500), if it completes its planned Motorola Mobility purchase.,
"We are working very well and very hard with manufacturers to make sure there is a wide range of Windows 8 products," Ballmer said, trying to dodge the question.
Battelle hammered back, asking again if Microsoft (Fortune 500) would build its own phone.,
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