Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates recently sat down with a bunch of other business magnates in an event hosted by the venture firm Village Global and during the conversation, he took the blame for letting Android grow into what it has become today.
Gates said that unlike other industries, the software market is a ‘winner take all market.’ Perhaps hinting at his company’s inability to get developers on board and creating a robust app ecosystem, the Redmond giant’s principal founder said that even having half as many or 90-percent as many apps is not enough when it comes to an operating system.
He went on to say that there could have been only one non-Apple operating system, and Microsoft failed to develop one because of his mismanagement. Without diving into details, he did mention the lawsuit that the company was slapped with in the late 1990s. Basically, Microsoft was accused of striving to be a monopoly in the PC market, just like how Facebook and Google are being criticized these days for squashing small players.
Gates valued Android at $400 billion and believes that had Microsoft been successful in developing a viable non-iOS alternative, that value could have been transferred to the Redmond-based company. Funnily enough, when Google acquired Android for $50 million back in 2005, the company feared that it might lose to Microsoft’s mobile operating system.
Before Android was released, a lot of smartphones ran Windows Mobile and in the mid-2000s, it was one of the most popular mobile platforms. However, once Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android started gaining ground in 2010, the popularity of Windows Mobile started to dwindle.
The fact that Microsoft stuck to its old ways and refused to customize its OS for touch screen handsets didn’t help either. On the other hand, Android was very much a mobile OS for touch-friendly phones from the get-go. Later on, Microsoft tried to start afresh with Windows Phone, which was later succeeded by Windows 10 Mobile. However, the change of plans didn’t really help and now, Microsoft is also retiring Windows 10. The support for the platform will officially end on December 10.
As Gates pointed out, small mistakes can cost a lot in the software world and this is exactly what happened with the company. Perhaps that’s why it wasn’t able to breathe new life into its mobile OS despite repeated attempts.
In terms of market cap, Microsoft is currently the biggest tech company. Its offerings such as Windows and Office are as popular as ever and its cloud business is also doing well. But then again, the appetite for growth in insatiable in the tech world, and Gates says that although Microsoft is the leading company in the tech industry right now, it could have been ‘the company’ had it not screwed up its mobile OS.
After all, Microsoft is primarily a tech company and mobile OS should have been an easy win for it. This makes one wonder how Huawei’s mobile operating system will hold up and whether it will meet the same fate as Windows 10 Mobile.