WHAT WAS BILL GATES' greatest mistake? No doubt INQ readers will have their own answers on that question, but for the man himself one thing stands out.
No, it's not Windows Vista. It's not picking the irresistibly danceable Start Me Up as the backing tune to the Windows 95 launch, while simultaneously allowing cameras into the building. It's not even killing off Clippy. No, it's letting Android take over the world of mobile, despite Windows' nearly decade-long headstart.
"You know, in the software world, in particular for platforms, these are winner-take-all markets," Gates said in a wide-reaching interview with Techcrunch. "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. That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win."
Gates went on to point out that if Microsoft had assumed the position as the mobile OS that isn't iOS, it would probably be worth about $400bn more than it is now. And yes, when you put it like that, that is probably a bigger mistake than most of us will ever make in our working lives.
"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," Gates continued. "So we are a leading company. If we got that one right, we would be the company. But oh well."
Could Windows Phone have ever challenged Android given the right resources and the freedom to make bold, mobile-friendly design choices earlier? It's impossible to say, really. But for Gates, it's clear that the company just didn't take the idea that people would one day favour smartphones over desktops seriously enough. µ
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