Ballmer: Microsoft needs mobile devices if it wants to win the cloud

Former Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer thinks the company needs a clear long-term path on mobile devices.

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer: The company really has to chart a direction in mobile devices.

Image: Microsoft

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has weighed in again on Microsoft's mobile device business, calling on the company to come up with a clearer plan.

Amid growing consensus that Windows Phone/Windows Mobile is dead, Ballmer still thinks the Nokia devices he steered the company toward are too important to give up, particularly if Microsoft wants to pull off the current CEO Satya Nadella's 'mobile-first, cloud-first' strategy.

In an interview with Business Insider, Ballmer said "innovation in the future will either be from the cloud out to all devices, or from devices as supported by software in the cloud", and so he wants Microsoft to hedge a bet on both.

"I think it's important for Microsoft to participate both ways. I think you see that with the work the company's pioneering with Surface, even more so with HoloLens and Xbox."

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If Ballmer were still running Microsoft, the company might not have bothered with the current Universal Windows Platform to fill its app gap, and instead would be working on how to run Android apps on Windows Phone, as Ballmer recently suggested it should be doing.

However, selling more Windows Phone devices doesn't seem to be a priority at the Redmond company as it focuses on delivering core Microsoft apps and cloud services to Android and iOS.

Despite record-low handset sales last quarter, which prompted suggestions that Windows Phone is dead, Microsoft execs were actually 'pleasantly surprised' by the results.

Wall Street seems keener to hear about Microsoft's cloud business. But not Ballmer, who stressed that he's "not a seller of the stock" and thinks Microsoft will still need to plot a course on mobile devices if it is to find success in the cloud.

"The company really has to chart a direction in mobile devices. Because, if you're going to be mobile-first, cloud-first, you really do need to have a sense of what you're doing in mobile devices," Ballmer said.

"I had put the company on a path. The board, as I was leaving, took the company on a path by buying Nokia. They kind of went ahead with that after I told them I was going to go. The company, between me and the board, had taken that sort of view. Satya, he's certainly changed that. He needs to have a clear path forward. But I'm sure he'll get there," he continued.

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