Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates talked about what he considers to be his “greatest mistake every” at the company during an interview at venture capital firm Village Global. It was the company’s haphazard move from Windows Mobile to Windows Phone. That move allowed Android to become the only true alternative to Apple’s iOS platform.
“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,” Gates said.
He added that Android became the standard non-Apple phone platform because of that misstep. “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,” he said.
Google seriously started thinking about its place in the mobile arena when it acquired Android for $50 million in 2005. Its ex-CEO Eric Schmidt had said a while back that Google was initially focused on countering Microsoft’s early efforts with Windows Mobile when it acquired Android.
The transition from Windows Mobile, a platform meant for devices with a keyboard and stylus, to a more touch-friendly Windows Phone didn’t go as well as the company might have hoped. Apple had ushered in a touch-friendly future with iOS and Microsoft wasn’t quick to catch up to that.
This allowed Android to establish its footing and it ultimately ended up getting rid of both Windows Phone and Windows Mobile in addition to other proprietary platforms like BlackBerry OS. Android has become so big that it is difficult to imagine an upstart platform ever truly becoming a competitor for it.