In this segment of my exclusive interview series with Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer, I brought up the sore subject of Windows Mobile 6.5. After defending it, he cited another product that did well but suffers mounting criticism: Nokia smartphones.

As you can see in the video, Ballmer acknowledges that Windows Mobile 6.5 is receiving negative reviews, but I never get him to actually admit that the platform still needs work. He says, "reviews aside," he's happy with what Windows Phones (running 6.5) can do now.

And faced with competition of iPhone, BlackBerry and others, he contends it's currently "kind of a horse race." The only clear leader, market-share wise, is Nokia, and they're losing ground. When I said that Nokia was another developer currently lambasted by reviewers, Ballmer replied:

At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter what the critics say, it matters what the customers say.

Perhaps given the power of advertising (still mighty, even if it's on the decline), there may still be a way for a product to get positive sales despite negative reviews. But the internet has changed that landscape, and the lines between critic and customer blur more every day. We all share knowledge in order to make better choices. So who, in the end, is this customer, who is so different from the critic? Not anyone who reads Gizmodo, that's for sure.

Stay tuned for more exciting Ballmer moments (and facial expressions) over the next day, and then the full uncut interview video on Friday. Video by Mike Short

Steve Ballmer Exclusive Interview Series:
Part 1: Ballmer Talks Natal, Says Blu-ray Add-On for Xbox Coming
Part 2: Ballmer on the Smartphone Race: "It Doesn't Matter What the Critics Say"
Part 3: Ballmer on Zune: Sometimes You Get It Right The Third Time?