An interview of Steve Ballmer by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman this evening saw the Microsoft CEO characterize Windows Phone’s competition in some less than favorable terms. TechCrunch reports that Ballmer called the rival Android platform "wild," "uncontrolled," and susceptible to malware. Conversely, Apple’s ecosystem was "high priced" and "highly controlled." It’s clear that Ballmer envisions Microsoft as a kind of Goldilocks-just-right middle ground, but with such a significant amount of ground to make up just to overtake third-place RIM, it’s a vision that the company is still struggling to get across to consumers.

When asked about Microsoft's recent Surface launch and competing directly with hardware partners, the CEO said that he anticipated others would continue to make "the lion's share" of PCs, tablets, and phones, reported All Things D. He added, “with that said, it is absolutely clear there is an innovation opportunity on the seam (of the intersection) between software and hardware… that is a seam that must not go unexploited by Microsoft.” At the same time, Ballmer acknowledged that the company still had a lot of work to do in the "under five inches" category. If that's how the man in charge views the competitive landscape, how far off can a Surface phone really be?