Bill Gates claims that he could have defeated Android

The founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, believes that a Windows smartphone would have outperformed Android – if not for a missed deadline
Windows Pocket Explorer HP 320LX
Windows have no plans to revive Windows Mobile. Image: MobiForge

What did Microsoft miss out on?

Smartphones are big business. Somewhere around 3.3 billion people use smartphones globally. That is over 40% of the world’s population.

Of those, more than 95% use Android or Apple iOS devices. The market is dominated by Android, who are leaps and bounds ahead of their competitors: Hauwei are a relatively new competitor, and come in third with a 10.2% market share.

What is the history of Windows Phone?

Windows Mobile was regarded as one of the most unique operating systems when it was released in 2000. However, poor timing meant that it missed the boat and fell short of rivals Apple and Android.

It was superseded by Windows Phone in 2010. The Windows Phone operating systems were successors to Windows Mobile and Zune. Windows Phone was built using a new user interface, taken from the Metro design language.

Having failed to gain traction or market share, the Corporate Vice President, Joe Belfiore, announced in October 2017 that Windows Phone had come to an end.

Windows Mobile logo
Windows Mobile launched too late to compete with rival software. Image: Wikipedia

Why did Windows Mobile fail to make an impact?

At the NYT Deadbook Conference, Gates blamed bad timing. He says that dealing with an antitrust investigation in the early 2000’s when Windows Mobile launched caused him to become ‘distracted’.

He missed a crucial deadline which would have installed Windows Mobile on a Motorola device. Motorola went with Android.

Gates says; ‘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‘.

Start screen of Windows 8
Windows Mobile was closed down in 2017. Image: Wikipedia

Without a contending Microsoft offering, Android took it’s place. Android offered an alternative to Apple iOS and is now the market leader.

Gates has said that the failure of Microsoft to engage in the smartphone market is his ‘biggest mistake‘.

Terry Myerson, former head of Windows said that; ‘building our early versions of Windows Phone on an incomplete Windows CE platform, designed for small embedded systems, left us too hobbled to ever catch up.’

Are Windows planning to get back into the smartphone software market?

In a word; no. It sounds very much like Microsoft are sticking to hardware.

The new Microsoft Surface Duo handset will run on Android software. This is the first new phone hardware from Microsoft in two years. It is set to launch next year.

Woman holding the Microsoft Surface Duo mobile
The Surface Duo will be released in 2020 – using Android software. Image: Microsoft

There was speculation this this might coincide with a re-release of Windows Mobile or a new operating system, but that is not the case. CNet report that a Microsoft spokesman says:

‘We are embracing customers where they are and building on technology they use with benefits only Microsoft can bring. We are building on top of Android, just as we’ve built on top of Chromium in our Edge browser, to give our customers the best of both companies.’

It sounds like Android are staying where they are – right at the top.

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