Bill Gates' $400 billion mistake involves Windows Phone and Android

Bill Gates started Microsoft in 1975 along with Paul Allen and the rest is history. You don't get to be one of the wealthiest people in the world and build a trillion dollar company without making some great decisions over the years. At an event held by venture capital firm Villiage Global (via TechCrunch) Gates said that there is still one thing that bothers him to this day, and that is allowing Google to develop Android. He calls it the "standard non-Apple phone form platform." According to the entrepreneur, "That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win."

Gates put a value of $400 billion on Android and admits that "we did screw up a super important one." After all, Windows Mobile was running on smartphones for years before Android was developed. And the reaction made by Microsoft's then CEO Steve Ballmer to the introduction of the iPhone revealed how Microsoft missed a golden opportunity. Ballmer said that the iPhone wouldn't appeal to business customers because it doesn't have a keyboard. "We have our strategy. We have great Windows Mobile devices," the executive said in 2007 after Steve Jobs unveiled Apple's touchscreen handset. While Microsoft saw the iPhone as a goofy phone that required users to type on glass, Andy Rubin's team inside Google reportedly did a quick 180-degree turn and changed Android into an operating system for touchscreen phones. By the way, Ballmer admitted his mistake in November 2016.

The "app gap" kills Windows Phone

Windows Phone was launched in January 2010 to replace Windows Mobile and was used to power the Nokia Lumia line of smartphones. Despite being "buttery smooth," developers failed to support the platform and the so-called "app gap" meant that consumers had to stick with iOS or Android to keep their favorite apps. Microsoft took a swing at the hardware by buying Nokia's Devices and Services businesses for more than $7 billion back in 2013. This led the company to release its own Lumia devices, but they sold just as poorly. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that support for Windows 10 Mobile will end on December 10th of this year, and urged users to switch to iOS or Android.

The Android operating system is believed to have an 85% share worldwide with Apple's iOS second.



1. jacky899

Posts: 431; Member since: May 16, 2017

That was unfortunate. It would have been the perfect business phone if they could make it compatible with native windows app. I have been waiting years to purchase one....

4. sgodsell

Posts: 7456; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

I don't think you will see an updated Windows phone anytime soon. There was just so many reasons why Microsoft failed. But when you add them all up Microsoft was doomed to fail. Microsoft still had that mentality that OEMs will buy our Windows Phone from us to install on their smartphones. Back at 2010 Microsoft was initially charging $50 for each smartphone that had WP installed on it. Manufacturers had to pay that, even if they didn't sell that smartphone. That changed to $25, then to $7, and then it was free, but the free to OEMs occurred after a couple of years too late. Android was free all that time. But it didn't stop there, Microsoft only supported a limited number of hardware and SoC types. OEMs said screw that, especially when we have to wait for Microsoft to support that new hardware or SoCs, and if they will ever support it. Android was based on Linux, and Linux at this point now supported much more hardware and SoCs compared to what Microsoft actually supported. Not to mention WP was closed, so OEMs had no other choice but to wait for Microsoft to support any new hardware or SoCs. Android however was open and support all the new hardware from all these OEMs. Whether it was cameras, displays, modems, wifi, Bluetooth, SoCs, and anything else. This is also why Android is in more locations than Apples iPhones, and is in the vast majority of the world's population. It's also why Apple and their iPhones have been following Android for many years now. It's a known fact, that if you want to see and use the latest technology, then you have to use an Android smartphone. There is no ifs, ands, or buts about it. To top it off, the apps were not there, especially when the public is not buying your smartphones (WP). There is more, but those are some of the major reasons why WP failed.

19. oldskool50 unregistered

What? Those phone run Windows. Microsoft doesn't have to support a certain CPU. Windows CE can run on any SoC. The manufacturer of the SoC simply has to write the proper driver for the hardware. MS would simply have to make a standard driver platform for Windows Phone and that is how OEMs make their hardware to match. The same as they already do. MS screwed up by charging for Windows Phone. They could have included a license with the fact most OEMs already have a Windows license. Like you said, even with PCs, OEM have to pay to license each unit, whether it sells it not. MS could have used Windows Embedded and stripped it down just for mobile hardware which it is already light as it runs in servers and POS hardware just fine. A Note or S, running Windows.

24. sgodsell

Posts: 7456; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Windows CE was very limited, and still restricted. Even if you did acquire a licence from Microsoft to support your own SoCs. Then all you could do was make your own applications work on that new CE device using your own SoC. None of Microsofts applications would work on it like office, and none of the customers applications would work either. Well unless everyone gave you their source code to compile on your new SoCs. Most CE developers at the time using Visual Studio would compile their apps or programs natively to support the hardware so they could get the speed they wanted or needed. Try to remember back in 2010, there was no dual core CPUs, and even GPUs on some SoCs were separated back then. Shortly after that GPUs were embedded with the CPUs, and even all the memory controllers and DMA as well as other components were all becoming embedded on each and every new SoC. Things were moving at a rapid pace at this point in time. Plus Microsoft's first beta of Windows 8 was released in 2011. In 2011 Microsoft announced that Windows Phone was not going to use the CE kernel anymore. They were going to use the NT kernel instead. So CE was on its way out. Shortly after Microsoft killed off Windows Mobile app store. Microsoft killed off things before they even had anything new or fully in place. Microsoft was their own worst enemy at this point. Also shortly after the original Windows Phone 7 devices, they they would not see Windows 8, and would only be upgraded to Windows 7.5. Microsoft's customers were beta hardware testers at that point. That is when Microsoft lost me on the mobile scene. Now that I look back Microsoft didn't listen or care about it's customers, they paid the price of Microsoft's slow and experimental Windows Phone growing pains.

26. sgodsell

Posts: 7456; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

I should have said there was no dual core mobile CPUs back then.

29. Mike88

Posts: 438; Member since: Mar 05, 2019

Do you work for Google to write so much crap?? Which android phone can compete with iPhone and it's experience these days,, iPhones have the latest technology in software and hardware

9. Cat97

Posts: 1936; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

How can a phone be a business phone without a notification LED ? No way.

12. Vokilam

Posts: 1286; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

Google got lucky because Apple let Verizon wide open for the taking. iPhone was sold exclusively on AT&T and Verizon customers were itching for an iPhone - first android phones were the savior Verizon needed - and I believe that’s where anti-Apple zealots were first born. If iPhone was sold on all networks - I don’t think Android would have the kickstart it got in the beginning.

2. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1440; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

I remember buying an HTC 8X as soon as Windows Phone 8 was released and it wasn't bad, but it definitely wasn't great either. The app gap is the popular reason for why it failed, but definitely not the only one. Your home screen was the live tiles, the next layer an app list, going further into settings or so another entirely different interface and if you chose a subsection of that it had yet another designed interface. There was no consistency in Windows Phone, even when finally Windows 10 Mobile came rolling around those problems persisted and in fact got worse. The live tiles were a nice touch but you soon realized their ability to offer useful information was very limited, almost always forcing you to open the app anyway. Internet explorer was terrible on Windows Phone and later Edge did do it a lot better, but it was too late. Windows Phone 8 was very buggy, many of those took way too long (5 months) to be fixed. As OS for a daily driver phone, you were pretty screwed. The camera app was quite good. Battery life as well. Apps however performed quite poorly, often needing to be restarted if you switched between apps for a moment, which was very frustrating and frankly ridiculous. Quick toggles for things like WiFi were non-existent and connectivity from a software point, abysmal at times. There was a lot more wrong with Windows Phone to make it fail, it definitely doesn't just come down to apps.

21. Plutonium239

Posts: 1232; Member since: Mar 17, 2015

Quick toggles for things wifi were there. All you had to do was swipe down from the top of the screen to access them... The live tiles were better than the wigits available on Android. I miss my windows phone.

3. redmd

Posts: 1943; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

Microsoft and Windows phone never listen to customers. I miss my Lumia phones.

5. boriqua2000

Posts: 258; Member since: Mar 11, 2009

That wasn't their biggest mistake. Their biggest mistake was not buying Google when it was for sale for 1 million dollars. Doh

6. CDexterWard

Posts: 86; Member since: Feb 05, 2018

I know it's a starry-eyed pipe dream, but if any company can come through and make this possibly a three horse race, I feel that Windows could claw out from the grave and do it. They obviously made poor decisions in the past, but I think with the combination of their resources and prior experience / history they could pull it off if they invested the time and money into stepping back into the fold. I'm personally tired of the Android / Apple dilemma. Both have exceptionally great and exceptionally disappointing aspects for me. I go with the "51% rule" - so if one platform sways me just over the brink for long enough I switch over. That's pretty maddening and I wish there was something more compelling that I could invest in with confidence. Sadly neither is really great at the moment. Some competition here is far overdue.

7. CDexterWard

Posts: 86; Member since: Feb 05, 2018

Edit: Said Windows instead of Microsoft

30. Mike88

Posts: 438; Member since: Mar 05, 2019

Google asked them to step back and many other brands, they stopped Samsung from making a new OS after its fail try on tizen,, everyone agreed to work under Google for one common goal - get into people's home, penetrate through their privacy and misuse everything for a very big political and cultural mission, they want to make the world what they want it to be and it's a very dark world they want

8. emjoigently

Posts: 154; Member since: Aug 22, 2017

At all happened really fast, and Google jumped the fastest. Both Nokia and MS dragged their feet for a year, Google got lucky with a few hit phones, and that was enough to decide the race. More than MS, Nokia had alot of goodwill outside of the USA. If they had pushed harder, they would have been in with a chance.

10. sgodsell

Posts: 7456; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

It was more than a few hit smartphones. There was a lot of things that Microsoft did wrong. New Mobile hardware was growing at an alarming rate, from displays, cameras, CPUs, GPUs, and so much more. Android's agnostic VM helped to make it future proof. When developers made apps, it didn't matter what hardware architecture those Android devices used. That's why you saw x86 Android smartphones and tablets, to MIPS, to many versions of ARM SoCs, and more. So developers didn't have to worry about making their apps support different architectures. Plus OEMs with Androids open source also ment OEMs could make and support their own hardware and software. It's also why you still see today that Android always have the latest mobile hardware, first. With Androids agnostic VM, it's ultimately why you saw both Microsoft and Apple come out later with their own agnostic software. The future today for everyone is agnostic platforms and software. It's why PWA's (progressive web apps) are the future.

11. obedchuni

Posts: 337; Member since: Jun 16, 2014

Isn’t the windows just like android is standard non Apple Mac.

13. Krjal

Posts: 431; Member since: Dec 19, 2013

I wonder how much difference there would've been if there was support for Android apps on Windows Mobile.

14. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

That would have been a good move. In a way I'm thankful Microsoft didn't precede Android on mobile because they would have made Apple's prison seem like a holiday resort.

16. Fellwalker

Posts: 538; Member since: Apr 04, 2014

If it had supported their own Windows 6.5 apps that would have done it, but it couldn't because the architecture was so different.

15. Fellwalker

Posts: 538; Member since: Apr 04, 2014

The biggest mistake was abandoning windows 6.5 for mobile - which worked and had an avid developer community. Instead of developing alongside that, they left it hanging on getting old, while they freshly but developed windows phone with tiles. Their offering arrived eventually and was totally different - I even remember bitter arguments about the number of buttons Microsoft was going to allow. It felt as if Google listened to all of these arguments and when Android came out it looked and felt similar to the old windows 6.5 that had had so much love. I hung on to my old phone till android matured, which wasn't until 4.

17. lyndon420

Posts: 6836; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Microsoft still makes a killing off of Android without having to lift a finger with their 'Android License Fees'...or has that changed now?

25. Vogue1985

Posts: 482; Member since: Jan 24, 2017

They do ,and that's one of the reason they still haven't didn't any thing or focused on pushing out the os,even through their mobile OS and security were excellent. Their productivity apps like ms word,PowerPoint,excel etc are still the best productivity app on mobile is. If they want it they can,but they don't,they had the A.I assistant too. Anyways

18. oldskool50 unregistered

Microsoft had told us, way back in year 2000 that single form factor devices would become the norm and that phones would be better. Gates showed a tablet that was very thick which was a very early test model. They had the correct vision, but they sat it. They already had a. Very successful platform with Windows Mobile. All they had to do was get with a manufacturer to make the device while they work the software. Microsoft should have done what Apple end up doing. Microsoft had the business with businesses already. All they needed was to give them a better offereing. They could and should have a phone, running a low voltage Intel chipset with a GPU, running Windows Phone and then plug into USB to get a full working copy of Windows. They should have had this convergence device already. Not Samsung. Ballmer laughed at Apple because he solely looked at price. Windows Phone should have been given to any OEM wanting to make a phone for them and Android wouldnt have stood a chance. Apple could still have iOS and be player 2 and e very OEM who makes Android phones now would all be making Windows Phones instead. We needed Android simply because MS messed up and they know it. Bill Gates should not have let that happen. Ballmer should have stepped down after he laughed at the iPhone.

20. oldskool50 unregistered

If MS would have done it right, they could have a Windows Embedded platform for mobile devices. They could have direct hardware access like iOS has. This would have made it possible for Direct X Mobile, which would have made gaming on Windows Phone more PC-like vs being kiddish like on iOS. This would have open up for Xbox Mobile, where streaming Xbox games would be possible. They already offer email, OneDrive and maps and more

22. Vogue1985

Posts: 482; Member since: Jan 24, 2017

Microsoft didn't want it bad enough, and to be quite Frank they still don't. They Microsoft have the OS in laterally every computer, all the software OMG.its just that the Gates aren't money hunger and always want to do things right ie consumer focused. Were as ie Google is all about pure money same with apple. They ,Microsoft, can still go for it can imagine if they were more about security/privacy,eg they would have been perfect with BlackBerry. But again Microsoft didn't want it bad enough, when they do they can really cause a shockwave.

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