Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates recently spoke about his time at the company when the crucial decisions were made over its mobile operating system at an event hosted by early-stage venture capital firm Village Global.
“In the software world, particularly for platforms, these are winner-take-all markets,” Bill Gates said in the event, which is currently available to watch on YouTube.
“The greatest mistake ever is whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is,” he added.
Bill Gates said that while Microsoft is still ‘a very strong’ entity, it would be ‘the leading company’ instead of ‘a leading company’ if it had managed to recognise and take on the Android onslaught. He further said, “If we’ve got that one [Android opportunity] right, we would be the company.”
Bill Gates not only admitted his own mistakes, but he also took the full responsibilities of the mismanagement. He didn’t blame Steve Ballmer (former CEO of Microsoft) as the culprit for the Android debacle at all, while many believed that it was Ballmer who largely brought Microsoft to the failures in the mobile platform market.
“In the software world, particularly for platforms, these are winner-take-all markets,” he said while mentioning that the greatest mistake ever is whatever mismanagement he was engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is.
What happened to Microsoft with Ballmer as CEO?
Vanity Fair, a US magazine in an article titled “Microsoft’s Lost Decade” stated that Microsoft had stepped up its efforts to cripple competitors at the beginning of the 21st century (after the era of Bill Gates as the CEO). But because of a series of ‘astonishingly foolish management decisions’, the competitors being crippled were often co-workers at Microsoft, instead of other companies. Staffers were rewarded not just for doing well but for making sure that their colleagues failed.
Keeping dozens of current and former executives as well as thousands of internal documents and legal records as their source, Vanity Fair also mentioned that the internal knife fight and power play within the Microsoft employees eventually killed, derailed or delayed the implementation of important technologies such as e-book and smartphone. This delay was the perfect opportunity for the major competitors, such as Google to outgrow Microsoft.
Google acquired Android back in 2005 for only 50 million US dollar, while Ballmer was still laughing at the iPhone for not having a keyboard, failing to see that the future remained to the full-touch smartphones.
While competitors such as Google and Apple kept moving forward, Microsoft spent years arguing internally over whether the company should scrap its Windows Mobile efforts. At the end of 2008, the company had to scrap Windows Mobile and completely reboot its mobile efforts with Windows Phone, giving the competitors years to surpass Microsoft.