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Bill Gates: Windows Phone could have defeated Android

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft founder Bill Gates believes the company would have dominated the smartphone world had it not been for an antitrust investigation it faced in the early 2000s.

Speaking at the New York Times’ DealBook conference, Gates said he was too distracted by the case and missed a deadline to put Windows Mobile on a Motorola device by a matter of months.

Microsoft dominated smartphones in the first part of the decade with Windows Mobile, but this first mover advantage was limited by the fact the market for such devices was so small.

Motorola was a major device manufacturer during the period, meaning Windows Mobile could have gained significant traction in the market and would have limited the opportunity that Google seized with Android.

Microsoft Mobile

“There’s no doubt that the antitrust lawsuit was bad for Microsoft, and we would have been more focused on creating the phone operating system and so instead of using Android today you would be using Windows Mobile,” Gates is quoted as saying. “If it hadn’t been for the antitrust case... we were so close, I was just too distracted. I screwed that up because of the distraction.”

The first Android devices were launched in the latter part of the decade and filled the vacuum left by Microsoft for a non-Apple mobile operating system. Android has effectively become to smartphones what Windows is to PCs.

Windows Phone was critically acclaimed but released far too late to gain the consumer, vendor and developer support required to successfully challenge for the top spot. Not even the acquisition of former market leader Nokia could help arrest the decline.

Gate has previously described Microsoft’s inability to capture the market as his biggest mistake, one worth hundreds of billions of pounds, but the company has at least made peace with its failure. A final low-key attempt to win share with a mobile version of Windows 10 has run out of steam, and Microsoft even plans to use Android in its upcoming Surface Duo device.

Under Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s strategy is to get its services, such as Microsoft Office 365, onto as many devices as possible and drive subscription revenue.

Via The Verge