Bill Gates's Biggest Mistake? Losing the Mobile Market to Android

Gates ponders on the past and present in a recent talk, revealing his greatest regret.

You might not expect one of the richest people in the world to have many regrets, but it seems Bill Gates has a few.

In a recent interview at a venture capital firm, Village Global, Gates revealed one of the greatest mistakes he has ever made was with Microsoft/Windows mobile missing out on being the operating system to rival Apple OS. 

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“In the software world, particularly for platforms, these are winner-take-all markets. So the greatest mistake ever is whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft to not be what Android is. That is, Android is the standard non-Apple phone platform. That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win.

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It really is winner take all. If you’re there with half as many apps or 90 percent as many apps, you’re on your way to complete doom. There’s room for exactly one non-Apple operating system and what’s that worth? $400 billion that would be transferred from company G to company M.”

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Google takes all

Android was bought by Google in 2005 for $50 million. The company's early focus was centered around beating whatever Microsoft was making.

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Former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt has stated that the company was scared Microsoft's mobile strategy would be successful.

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Android successfully beat out Microsoft and is now essentially the Microsoft equivalent for mobile OS. Microsoft was initially skeptical of the introduction of purely touch-based devices.

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'No keyboard!'

Former Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer famously dismissed the iPhone calling it the “most expensive phone in the world and it doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard.”

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This attitude seems to have been part of the reason that Microsoft was so slow to adapt its mobile software for touch devices.

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At an emergency meeting in December 2008, Microsoft decided to scrap its initial mobile software efforts, called Microsoft Mobile and reboot the whole project under the name Windows Phone.

Unfortunately for the company, this never proved successful and the software is no longer supported. Despite this massive mistake, Microsoft has remained relevant with its cloud business.

“It’s amazing to me that having made one of the greatest mistakes of all time, and there was this antitrust lawsuit and various things, that our other assets like Windows and Office are still very strong, so we are a leading company,” says Gates during the interview.

“If we had gotten that one right, we would be the leading company, but oh well.”

Microsoft is still earning good money.

In April, they reported their Q3 results with revenue of $30.6 billion and net income of $8.8 billion. The revenue numbers have exploded 14 percent year over year and net income has increased 19 percent.

Microsoft Cloud and Office are the main revenue drivers for the company, but Xbox, Surface, and Windows all help the company continue to return solid results.

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