Bill Gates spoke about the downfall of Windows Mobile at The New York Times DealBook Conference. Gates shared how his own distraction and an investigation by the US Justice Department hurt Microsoft’s mobile efforts. He also revealed that Microsoft almost launched Windows Mobile on a Motorola headset, but missed by a few months.
Gates points towards a US Justice Department antitrust investigation as a contributing factor to Windows Mobile losing to Android in the mobile market space, “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.” He also stated, “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.”
The transition from Windows Mobile to Windows Phone had several issues and cleared the path for Android to contend for mobile market share. In the early days of Android, the success of certain devices helped push Android forward, but Gates says that things could have gone different;y, “We were just three months too late on a release Motorola would have used on a phone, so yes it’s a winner takes all game.”
It’s impossible to say how different things would have been for Windows Mobile if certain Motorola devices ran it instead of Android. It’s also worth noting that this is likely a simplication of events and that many factors led to the failure of Windows Mobile. Gates did not specify which Motoraa phone almost ran Windows Mobile. The Verge points out that the Droid range of Android phones was a success around the same time as Gates’ story.
Gates also spoke about the “winner-take-all” nature of the mobile phone market in June when he stated that ceding the mobile market to Android was his “greatest mistake ever.”