Microsoft should have been Apple's challenger in mobile, says Bill Gates

Posted:
in iPhone edited June 24
It should have been Microsoft posing the main competition to Apple in mobile platforms, not Google, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates commented in a recent interview.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates


"In the software world, particularly for platforms, these are winner-take-all markets," Gates told venture capital business Village Global, cited by The Verge. "So the greatest mistake ever is whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is. That is, Android is the standard non-Apple phone platform."

Mobile "was a natural thing for Microsoft to win," he continued, though further admitting that the margin for success is slim.

"It really is winner take all," he said. "If you're there with half as many apps or 90% 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."

Microsoft was already in the smartphone OS business prior to Apple and Google, having launched Windows Mobile in 2003. Even after Google bought Android in 2005 and Apple launched the iPhone in 2007, however, Microsoft was slow to react, only debuting a modern OS -- Windows Phone -- in 2010.

The company never caught up to Apple or Google in terms of features, apps, or popularity, even after its Nokia takeover, ultimately ending support for Windows Phone in 2017.

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer infamously dismissed the iPhone's chances because of its lack of a keyboard, which in 2007 was de facto on top-end smartphones.

Windows remains the dominant OS in desktop and laptop PCs, despite inroads by Macs. The platform seized the lead in the early 1990s and remains difficult for Apple to unseat. Low-end Dell PCs for example can cost as little as $380, whereas the cheapest new Mac is a $799 Mac mini. Additionally, Apple doesn't ship discrete graphics in anything on the lower end of its product lineup.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 45
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,748member

    "Google acquired Android back in 2005 for $50 million, and former CEO Eric Schmidt admitted that Google’s initial focus was beating Microsoft’s early Windows Mobile efforts. “At the time we were very concerned that Microsoft’s mobile strategy would be successful,” said Schmidt during a 2012 legal fight with Oracle about Java. Android ultimately killed Windows Mobile and Windows Phone off, and became the Windows equivalent in the mobile world.

    Gates’ admission is somewhat surprising, though. Many had assumed that Microsoft’s missed mobile opportunity was a Steve Ballmer era mistake. Ballmer famously laughed at 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.” While Ballmer accepted the iPhone could go on to sell well, he crucially missed the touch-friendly era it was ushering in, and laughed off its lack of a keyboard.

    This was a key part of Microsoft’s early mobile mistakes, and it came from the very top.

    Gates said that, without his mistake, Microsoft would today be the biggest company in the world.

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


    Fun Fact: Samsung could have had Android for all to themselves in mid-Dec 2004, but they pretty much laughed Rubin and Danger out of the room when they visited Korea to pitch it. No interest, waste of time. By the first week of January 2005 tho it was Google who approached Danger and ultimately purchasing them in February 2005. ...And there went Windows Mobile.
    edited June 24 Carnagetylerdjbdragonpscooter63roundaboutnown2itivguyFileMakerFellerfirelock
  • Reply 2 of 45
    If we look at the Netbook platform that was specified by MS then all the reasons for the failure of the Windows Phones is there for all to see. They hobbled the spec to ensure that it would eventually fail. Google didn't put those sort of restrictions on the hardware used by phone makers using Android as their software platform. MS typically wants to keep really tight control of everything. That is their nature. That is another reason why Windows phones are dead as the dodo.
    tmayn2itivguycat52iqatedo
  • Reply 3 of 45
    gutengelgutengel Posts: 290member
    Maybe they shouldn't focus so much on making a f**king funeral for the iPhone and instead do actual work!
    jbdragonpscooter63ravnorodomn2itivguycat52Bombdoelollivercorrectionsanantksundaramwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 45
    The world is worse off for getting stuck with Android instead of Windows Mobile. 
    crossladgenovellejbdragonpscooter63AI_liasn2itivguyDAalsethlostkiwiJWSClolliver
  • Reply 5 of 45
    Steve Ballmer the MSFT CEO shares synergy blame on this missed opportunity!  The MSFT stock was flatlined for a decade while Ballmer did nothing to expand the firms narkets.
    macxpressSpamSandwichJWSC
  • Reply 6 of 45
    It seems that what he is saying is that Apple creates a product and the market only demands one non-apple copycat alternative. Seemingly aware of the significant amount of IP that Microsoft had copied for Windows. 

    Now I ask (again), what is stopping other companies with coming up with original ideas? Apple does not have a monopoly on ideas. We clearly see this happen in markets which Apple does not operate, so why are tech companies, with their billions, so afraid to make a genuine effort and create a new product. 
    edited June 24 jbdragontmaybadmonkStrangeDaysn2itivguylostkiwiFileMakerFellercat52lolliverp-dog
  • Reply 7 of 45
    cashxxcashxx Posts: 105member
    I remember those days!  The Blackberry and Windows Mobile OS 6 trash!  The screens sucked, the OS sucked and management sucked!
    jbdragonJWSCcat52seanjanantksundaramp-dogwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 45
    crossladcrosslad Posts: 495member
    I tried iOS, Windows and Android. Whilst iOS has always been my favourite OS, I preferred Windows over Android. I wish Microsoft had stuck it out rather than surrender the market to Android. 
    jbdragonpscooter63JWSClolliverbigtdswatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 45
    GG1GG1 Posts: 257member
    cashxx said:
    I remember those days!  The Blackberry and Windows Mobile OS 6 trash!  The screens sucked, the OS sucked and management sucked!
    Ah, yes, WinCE!
    FileMakerFellerseanjwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 45
    genovellegenovelle Posts: 967member
    It seems that what he is saying is that Apple creates a product and the market only demands one non-apple copycat alternative. Seemingly aware of the significant amount of IP that Microsoft had copied for Windows. 

    Now I ask (again), what is stopping other companies with coming up with original ideas? Apple does not have a monopoly on ideas. We clearly see this happen in markets which Apple does not operate, so why are tech companies, with their billions, so afraid to make a genuine effort and create a new product. 
    I think some try but they are more focused on their business models which is data collection/ad sell driven. Then you have companies like Samsung who have no focus at all so they chase what seems to be hot or is rumored to be the next hit. 
    p-dogwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 45
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,486member
    Arrogance sank MS under Balmer. But they are making a STRONG comeback! Their new support for open standards and open source is something Apple needs to keep a close eye on.

    Apple needs to re-evaluate their Mac mini offering and provide a friendlier price.
    AI_liasjbdragonJWSCseanj
  • Reply 12 of 45
    AI_liasAI_lias Posts: 300member
    MS was caught in cruise control asleep at the wheel. I always thought it was Ballmer's fault, not Bill's. Maybe the mobile strategy went back even further into Bill's years. That being said, this can happen to any big company that's wildly successful, if they're too "courageous".
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 45
    jimh2jimh2 Posts: 149member
    Let's see they...
    • Fumbled on the Internet's rise, but recovered with monopolistic moves.
    • Tried to go up against the iPod and iPad and failed miserably with a crappy OS.
    • Screwed their users with various incompatible music apps.
    • Botched Windows Phone repeatably with crappy hardware, with some exceptions, and an ever moving mobile OS that was not backwards compatible.
    The only thing that saved them is that Windows and office are the defecto selection in most businesses. There "eat your own dog food" business model failed them multiple times. Thankfully the new CEO got them back on track and opened everything up with significant improvements to their products. Ballmer worked to run them into the ground and was almost successful.
    jbdragonJWSClolliverseanjwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 45
    gebloomgebloom Posts: 10member
    The world is worse off for getting stuck with Android instead of Windows Mobile. 
    Perhaps not. Because their hardware failed,  MS has become a successful services company. 
    gatorguytmay
  • Reply 15 of 45
    genovellegenovelle Posts: 967member
    gebloom said:
    The world is worse off for getting stuck with Android instead of Windows Mobile. 
    Perhaps not. Because their hardware failed,  MS has become a successful services company. 
    But Google is a copycat at heart. They are following the Microsoft game plan to the letter. Just like Microsoft appropriated Mac Tech to make Windows, they did the same with Android. Now they are using chrome as an anchor to lock everyone into their proprietary browser. Apple actually created and made Safari Open Source to prevent another Explorer type lockdown of the internet where only certain browsers could use used to access certain companies. This is being facilitated via none standard plugin extensions. This the exact way Microsoft crippled the internet 20 years ago. 
    tmaylostkiwicat52lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 45
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,158member
    This is all laid at Ballmer’s feet. Gates retired too soon and left the company in the hands of a doofus. Same thing happened to Apple when they gave Michael (The Diesel) Spindler the job. 
    JWSCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 45
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,158member
    It seems that what he is saying is that Apple creates a product and the market only demands one non-apple copycat alternative. Seemingly aware of the significant amount of IP that Microsoft had copied for Windows. 

    Now I ask (again), what is stopping other companies with coming up with original ideas? Apple does not have a monopoly on ideas. We clearly see this happen in markets which Apple does not operate, so why are tech companies, with their billions, so afraid to make a genuine effort and create a new product. 
    Well, there’s the Galaxy Fold. /s
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 45
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,158member

    Arrogance sank MS under Balmer. But they are making a STRONG comeback! Their new support for open standards and open source is something Apple needs to keep a close eye on.

    Apple needs to re-evaluate their Mac mini offering and provide a friendlier price.
    No. Just imagine the wailing and gnashing of teeth over a $400 Mac. It would be a laughing stock of non performance.
    edited June 24 lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 45
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,135member
    You who what I think killed them?  It was saying Windows Phone 7 would all get Updated with the new OS, 8, and that ended up not being true. It was limited to only a few phones.  Can you imagine if Apple did that?  Imagine MS doing that with Windows on the Desktop.  Forcing you to buy a new computer.   It's Microsoft and Windows and people expect to get updates and instead were screwed over.  That was a big reason why I didn't get a Windows Phone.  I did, in fact, have a HP iPaq Windows Mobile 5 PDA back in the day.  I didn't move to a Smartphone until the iPhone 4.   As a very long time Windows user since Windows 95,  I was leaning in the direction of a Windows Phone.  But between that and really just SLOW to get anything out and limited app market that wasn't getting better, I couldn't go that direction for a phone.  Android?  No thanks.  A phone OS controlled by an Advertising company?  Why would I want to be spied on and have targeted ad's shoved at me?   Even though my younger brother had been trying for years to get me to switch to a Mac, which I still have never done, I did end up going with iOS.  I currently have an iPhone XS, a 12.9" iPad Pro, 2 Apple TV 4's, Apple Watch 4, and 2 Homepods, and yet still no Mac.  I have my custom built Windows 10 PC I built a few years ago.

    lostkiwiBombdoelolliverseanjfirelockwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 45
    Microsoft could not even make an iPod knockoff so its natural they screwed up with making a mobile phone. They are failures at matching hardware and software. Thou Xbox   an exception but still hardware is not there forte.
    watto_cobra
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