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Bill Gates says losing mobile war to Android was 'the greatest mistake ever'

Losing the mobile platform war to Android was one of the biggest mistakes ever, Microsoft founder Bill Gates reportedly said.

Published onJune 24, 2019

microsoft logo sign at mwc 2019
  • Microsoft founder Bill Gates has lamented the company’s failure to successfully challenge Android.
  • The company founder said his own mismanagement was to blame for Microsoft’s poor mobile strategy.
  • Support for Windows 10 Mobile is due to expire on December 10, 2019.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates has revealed that the company losing to Android was “one of the greatest mistakes of all time.”

The Microsoft founder was speaking at an event hosted by a venture capital firm (h/t: TechCrunch), and it’s clear he hasn’t forgotten about the Redmond firm’s botched mobile strategy.

“You know, in the software world, in particular for platforms, these are winner-take-all markets. So, you know, the greatest mistake ever is the whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is, [meaning] Android is the standard non-Apple phone form platform (sic). That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win,” Gates was quoted as saying by TechCrunch.

Read: Microsoft and mobile — Can it stop shooting itself in the foot?

“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 (Google) to company M (Microsoft),” Gates asserted.

“And it’s amazing to me, having made one of the greatest mistakes of all time — and there was this antitrust lawsuit and various things that, you know, our other assets, Windows, Office, are still very strong. So we are a leading company. If we got that one right, we would be the company. But oh well.”

It’s interesting to think what may have been had Microsoft come up with a cohesive long-term strategy to combat Google’s platform.

Microsoft’s scuppered mobile push

Microsoft initially launched Windows Mobile as its mobile OS, evolving from its Pocket PC platform back in 2000. The Redmond firm was slow to react to Android and iOS’s arrival in 2007/2008, eventually ditching Windows Mobile in favor of the touch-focused Windows Phone 7 in 2010. Unfortunately, Windows Mobile devices couldn’t be updated to Windows Phone 7 (at least officially), while Windows Phone 7 devices weren’t compatible with Windows Mobile apps.

Microsoft Xbox cloud gaming: Everything we know so far

Microsoft pulled off a similar break in 2012 when it launched Windows Phone 8, as Windows Phone 7 handsets were unable to be updated to the refreshed platform. This was particularly galling for Lumia 900 owners, with confirmation that the device wouldn’t get updated to Windows Phone 8 just a few months after the flagship’s U.S. launch.

Developer support was another big challenge for Microsoft. Even though it managed to secure plenty of big name apps on its Windows Phone Store, the likes of Snapchat refused to come to the platform. Google was another big holdout, launching a YouTube app that was essentially a web wrapper but refusing to bring most other popular apps to the platform.

The company eventually launched Windows 10 Mobile in 2015, but manufacturer and developer support had whittled down by then. Microsoft all but abandoned the platform come 2017, and it’s since confirmed that Windows 10 Mobile will reach end-of-life status on December 10, 2019. Do you think Microsoft should get back into the mobile game? Let us know in the comments section!

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