In a wide-ranging interview with The Verge following Microsoft's (MSFT) $7.2 billion Nokia purchase, a particularly chatty chief executive Steve Ballmer offered some background and perspective on the deal, spanning how it came about, where it leaves both companies and whether new devices and services chief Stephen Elop is his likely successor, among other hot topics.
Here are the highlights:
"Our board is going through a process open to internal and external candidates. It's a process that they wanted well-known so they could consider everybody, internally and externally. Stephen Elop happens to be going from external to internal, but our board will consider everybody. They will do it in private—that's the right way for the board to conduct its business."
The Nokia deal was finalized before Ballmer’s retirement announcement:
"Before I announced my plans, shortly before, I called [Nokia Board of Directors Chairman Risto Siilasmaa] because I wanted him to understand that the transaction was important to us despite my plans, that it was consistent with the strategy of Microsoft and our board.”
On the inevitability of a buyout deal between the two companies:
"I wouldn't say this was always in the cards. Over the last few years we have thought about our possibilities and strategic options to make sure we had success in phones. I would say I was going through a fairly diligent examination of that at about the time Nokia decided to take a look at opportunities two and a half-plus years ago … And yet by the early part of this year it was clear to me that perhaps acquisition would be a way to accelerate.”
Nokia services are a big part of the deal:
"People will focus in on the phone side. I think it's as important that we were able open up a set of innovation possibilities, working with Here location services—which we are not acquiring. But the way in which we formed a deal where we could do more innovation around building off of the great core technology and data assets at Here is also an important part of the deal today. We look forward to being one of the big customers of Here.”
On Nokia’s future:
"Nokia will be a company that goes on, and is in the business of network infrastructure, mapping, advanced technologies.”
On making up ground in the mobile market:
“We're not naïve about the amount of work that we have in front of us. The key is to drive volumes. Driving volumes will activate the software and the hardware ecosystem. We do see an ability to speed our agility in hardware and software innovation. We do think that making the brand and the product line simpler and easier to acquire and being able to invest with greater agility should do a lot to help us continue to improve our market share and position, which certainly will help our apps."
On Windows Phone and OEMs:
"We actually have an opportunity to create better opportunities for OEMs. The No. 1 thing that it takes to create opportunities for OEMs is a large market.”