Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has been making the rounds following the launch of Windows 8 and Surface, and yesterday he sat down for an interview in Santa Clara with LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman. TechCrunch pointed us to audio from the interview (embedded above), where Ballmer is asked about the role of Windows Phone 8 within the iOS- and Android-dominated smartphone market. Ballmer famously laughed about the iPhone’s high price point back in 2007, but apparently, the Microsoft CEO still thinks iPhones are priced too high. While claiming Android’s ecosystem is “not always in the consumer’s best interest,” Ballmer made a point of mentioning the high cost of iPhones abroad:

The ecosystem of Android is a little bit wild, from an app compatibility perspective, a malware perspective… maybe in a way that’s not always in the consumer’s best interest… conversely, the Apple ecosystem looks highly controlled, and by the way, quite high priced. The fact that we live in a country where almost every phone is subsidized, you may forget it. But I was in Russia last week where you pay $1000 for an iPhone.. you’re not going to sell that many iPhones… The question is how do you get the quality, but maybe not the premium price. A controlled, but maybe not quite as controlled ecosystem.

Reuters also has a quote of Ballmer from an event last night, when the CEO seemed to hint at the possibility of a Microsoft-branded smartphone:

“Do I anticipate that partners of ours will build the lion’s share of all Windows devices over the next five years? The answer is, absolutely,” Steve Ballmer said at a tech industry event in Santa Clara, California, on Wednesday…. “With that said, it is absolutely clear that there is an innovation opportunity on the scene between hardware and software and that is a scene that must not go unexploited at all by Microsoft,”

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