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Ballmer: 'Google not a major mobile competitor'

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Steve Ballmer has publicly belittled Google's fledgling mobile phone platform, saying the world's largest search engine ad broker is low on Microsoft's list of mobile competitors.

At an investor briefing in Sydney today, Microsoft's chief exec said Google would not have an easy time convincing handset manufacturers to adopt Android, its brand new Linux-based mobile platform.

"They've got some smart guys and hire a lot of people — blah-di-blah-di-blah," Ballmer said of his rival. "They start out way behind in a certain sense, and we'll see how they do."

Then he added "I'm not giving them a hard time" - before continuing to give them a hard time.

Because Google isn't charging for Android, Ballmer said, "they're not going to put in the same kind of investment to improve the product." Google has open sourced Android - perhaps hoping for improvement help from the outside world - but Ballmer would like to know where Google plans on making its money.

"I don't really understand their strategy...if I went to my shareholder meetings and my analyst meeting and said, 'Hey, we just launched a new product that has no revenue model — yeah, cheer for me,' I'm not sure my investors would take that very well, but that's what Google's telling their investors about Android," Ballmer said.

"If somebody thinks the formula is you give away your operating system to get search (usage), the operators are much too smart; they'll know they can still ask to be paid to carry your service."

He's much more concerned with competition from the Jesus Phone. And the CrackBerry. And Symbian. And Linux Mobile. "Google doesn't exactly bubble to the top of the list of the toughest competitors we've got going in mobile," Ballmer said. "They might some day but right now I think [they're not]."

What Ballmer doesn't realize is that Android is an effort to fragment the mobile OS market, push Google web services, and ultimately show the world more ads. But he may be right in thinking the plan won't work quite as well as Google expects it to work.

After all, HTC's inaugural Googlephone is nothing to cheer about. And with so many platforms already fighting for market share, you have to wonder if Google is much too late to the party. ®

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