Even after stepping down as Microsoft CEO in 2000, Bill Gates still regrets his decision to lose out Android to Google. During his interview with a venture capital firm Village Global, Bill Gates confessed that his management of Microsoft’s mobile efforts was his ‘greatest mistake’.
It is a $400 billion market and Microsoft missed out by allowing Google to make Android the only rival of Apple.
Microsoft CEO Reflects On His ‘Greatest Mistake Ever’
Reflecting on the times he spent as Microsoft CEO, Bill Gates said:
“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 not to be what Android is. That is, Android is the standard non-Apple phone platform. That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win. 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”.
Even after distancing himself from Microsoft as a chief executive officer, Gates is still involved in crucial strategic decisions by holding a position of chairman and chief software architect.
Today, Google’s Android has covered a significant chunk of smartphone pie in the world. However, back in pre-iPhone days when Google took over Android, the search engine was skeptical about its own success as Microsoft had dominated the desktop market; and there was a strong chance that Microsoft would repeat that success in the smartphone market.
A report from The Verge reveals, “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 the 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.
Gates believe that had he not made that mistake, Microsoft would have become the biggest company in the world today.
That’s all folks!