Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates says letting Google’s Android platform become dominant was his “biggest mistake” at the business. In an interview Monday at the Economic Club in Washington, DC, Gates said the antitrust trial it faced at the time was a distraction.
“We missed being the dominant mobile operating system with a very tiny amount,” he said at the event. “We were distracted during our antitrust trial. We didn’t assign the best people. So it’s the biggest mistake I made with regard to something that was within our skill set. We were clearly the firm that should have achieved that—and we didn’t.” At today’s Microsoft, Windows remains a contributor to profit and revenue, but Microsoft has moved on to focus more on software and cloud infrastructure, essentially ceding the mobile platform enterprise.
At the time mobile computing took off, Microsoft’s CEO was Steve Ballmer, not Gates. But Gates was still in certain initiatives at Microsoft, holding the title of Chief Software Architect from 2001 until 2014 through 2008 and Chairman of the Board. The antitrust case, “probably accelerated my retirement by five or six decades, which, overall for me, probably was a fantastic thing,” Gates said. In 2017, he said for the way wasn’t just a single key apologized.
The company has also had other missteps, including Windows Vista—among the versions of Windows. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer once famously called the iPhone “the most expensive phone in the world, and it does not appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard.” Gates, that uses an Android cellphone, retired from work and stepped down in February 2014.