Bill Gates’ $400 billion mistake: losing the mobile market to Android

“Given how Microsoft was already making smartphones with Windows Mobile OS years before Android was even developed, it surely missed a chance of a lifetime”

At the Venture Capital event, founder of Microsoft Bill Gates admitted that the company’s biggest mistake was not developing the go-to non-Apple mobile software. Android — which now powers over 80 percent of smartphone — is the “standard non-Apple phone form platform,” which Gates values at a whopping $400 billion. Given how Microsoft was already making smartphones with Windows Mobile OS years before Android was even developed, Microsoft surely missed a chance of a lifetime. The company’s then CEO Steve Ballmer said that the iPhone wouldn’t appeal to business users since it doesn’t have a keyboard. But then again Ballmer admitted the mistake of predicting it wrong back in 2016.

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Furthermore, in a statement Bill Gates said: “You know, in the software world, in particular for platforms, these are winner-take-all markets. 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. It really is winner take all. If you’re there with half as many apps or 90% as many apps, you’re on your way to complete doom.”

Gates further added that there was only room for one non-Apple operating system and that Google filled the gap, thereby Microsoft missing out the golden opportunity. “There’s room for exactly one non-Apple operating system, and what’s that worth? $400 billion that would be transferred from company G [Google] to company M [Microsoft].” Though Microsoft remains one of the top tech companies in the world, it couldn’t capitalise on the mobile OS, which would have made it (Microsoft) “the company,” given how it has Windows and Office products.

It’s amazing to me, having made one of the greatest mistakes of all time — and there were this antitrust lawsuit and various things that, you know, our other assets, Windows, Office, are still very strong. So we are a leading company. If we got that one right, we would be the company. But oh well,” added Bill Gates.

Microsoft launched Windows Phone in 2010 to replace Windows Mobile, and despite being smooth and functional, Windows Phone failed due to the lack of app support. This means users’ had to stick to Android or iOS. Microsoft attempted to stay relevant in the smartphone space by acquiring Nokia for more than $7 billion in 2013 but failed to make an impact yet again. Microsoft announced that it’d be ending support for Windows 10 Mobile support in December this year.

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