Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates reveals his life’s ‘greatest mistake’ in latest interview

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Updated: June 25, 2019 12:08:59 AM

Even though Microsoft tried its hands with its mobile platform (Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile), it failed miserably

Microsoft and Apple have been arch rivals since their inception. Both the companies have tried to undercut each other but when Google chipped in the dynamics changed for good and for bad. It was good for the consumers who were introduced to Android as a far easier alternative for mobile phones but it was bad for Apple and Microsoft. The sentiment has now been shared by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, according to who, mismanaging his company was the “greatest mistake”.

Gates spoke to Eventbrite CEO and Julia Hartz at an event hosted by venture company Village Global, where he discussed growing Microsoft into a company it is today, including closing in on tough decisions he had to make then to turn around the business. One of the discussions he had with Hartz found its way to how Microsoft failed to reach the popularity that Android enjoys today as a “non-Apple phone form platform”. He regrets not doing enough as an existing Microsoft entity, which led to Google working on Android to counter iOS and surpass it globally in terms of adoption.

“You know, in the software world, in particular for platforms, these are winner-take-all markets,” Gates acknowledged in his talk while confessing he engaged in some sort of “mismanagement” at Microsoft that caused it not to be what Android is today. He terms it his “greatest mistake” and goes on to say that it “was a natural thing for Microsoft to win” against Apple in the phone market. Microsoft was the top rival to Apple working relentlessly to proliferate into new areas, phone business being one of them.

Even though Microsoft tried its hands with its mobile platform (Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile), it failed miserably. “If you’re there with half as many apps or 90 per cent as many apps, you’re on your way to complete doom,” Gates said. Today, the company has nearly abandoned all of its plans for the mobile phone ecosystem. Meanwhile, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platforms have thrived exponentially, so much so that over 75 per cent of mobile platform market is captured by Android while iOS sweeps in a good 22.74 per cent globally, as per StatCounter’s report released in May.

Bill Gates divulged a few anecdotes from his days at Microsoft in his conversation with Hartz. He said that leaders should make “a very large sacrifice” in their early days while responding to a question particularly targeting the work-life balance. His opinion was, at large, addressed to the people engaged in “engineering things”. Gates co-founded Microsoft at the age of 32, which sounds practically late when taken into consideration from today’s perspective. That said, Gates nurtured Microsoft to become a worldwide PC software shipper that outshone Apple, thanks to the feasibility and affordability Windows as a platform offers.

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