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The Windows Mobile era took a heavy toll on Microsoft's mobile efforts

In a new candid interview with CBS Corp.'s (CBS) titular station, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) co-founder and famed philanthropist Bill Gates discusses his former company's struggles in the mobile era.  Microsoft today accounts for less than 5 percent of the smartphone market, according to most estimates.

For a time, Microsoft held nearly a quarter of the fledgling smartphone market (circa 2004).  But it failed to keep up with rivals like Google Inc. (GOOG) and Apple, Inc. (AAPL), sticking for years with the increasingly dated Windows Mobile platform.  In November 2010, Microsoft launched a new operating system, Windows Phone, which was ambitious but lacked strong third-party hardware support.  Today Microsoft is still struggling to sell the market on its latest mobile OS -- Windows Phone 8.

Bill Gates in the interview calls Microsoft's former cellphone strategy "clearly a mistake", remarking, "There's a lot of things like cellphones where we didn't get out in the lead early.  We didn't miss cellphones, but the way that we went about it didn't allow us to get the leadership."


The tech icon says that both he and current CEO (and close friend) Steve Ballmer are both incredibly "self-critical".  He comments, "He [Ballmer] and I are not satisfied that in terms of breakthrough things that we're doing everything possible."

Steve Ballmer
Steve Ballmer's company has struggled in the mobile era, since Mr. Gates' retirement.
[Image Source: SFGate]

Mr. Gates expressed confidence, though, that it's not too late for Microsoft to claw its way to a significant mobile market share.  He's a big fan of Windows 8 and Microsoft's Surface tablet.

Microsoft is reportedly aiming to unify the Windows and Windows Phone platforms under one consistent set of mostly overlapping APIs and user interface themes, to allow users to feel more comfortable with both form factors, and to help developers save time deploying cross-platform apps.  The first unified release, Windows Blue, may land late this summer.

The revisions are also accompanied with some big leadership change.  Windows President Steven Sinofsky was driven out and new rising stars are taking his place at the company.  Some investors have called on CEO Ballmer to step down, but for now Mr. Ballmer is hanging tight in the top spot, vocal as ever.


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Kin
By synapse46 on 2/18/2013 3:42:37 PM , Rating: 2
I'm surprised there was no mention of Kin, what would they classify that as?




RE: Kin
By datdamonfoo on 2/18/2013 4:05:56 PM , Rating: 5
A great featurephone destroyed by Verizon's greed?


RE: Kin
By Mitch101 on 2/18/2013 4:27:32 PM , Rating: 2
Id vote you up on that. The reviews for the device were good the Verizon plan you had to take didn't make sense.


RE: Kin
By TSS on 2/18/2013 5:25:30 PM , Rating: 2
Great features or not, wikipedia lists availability of the kin as may 2010 while the iphone was released in 2007.

Meaning when the iphone craze was in full swing, microsoft decided to launch a phone in the blackberry style, or the style of the craze 3-4 years ago at that point, with a full qwerty keyboard. While the iphone 1 already had a screen that doubled as a keyboard, which ment the screen was much larger when you didn't need that keyboard.

I'm sorry but while the phone might have had great features, the greatest feature of all that all succesfull smartphones have had since the iphone was missing, 3 years after that feature was revealed.

If it was simply the carrier's greed that made it fail, *all* smartphones would fail. All smartphones cost 40%-50% more when you buy them with a subscription instead of pre-paid, yet almost everybody prefers to buy the subscription over waiting or just not buying a smartphone.


RE: Kin
By StanO360 on 2/18/2013 4:28:17 PM , Rating: 2
It should not have been released in the fashion and pricing package that it was.

MS mistake was not realizing the potential of what they had (see Kinect for related story!) they were thinking PDA that connected to phone network. When it needed to be phone with PDA features. Same mistake Palm made, but Palm had no money.


RE: Kin
By MadMan007 on 2/18/2013 5:33:56 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
MS mistake was not realizing the potential of what they had..


That is always Microsoft's mistake. MS really does have a lot of visionary ideas, they just botch it in some way or don't make a coordinated effort to realize the potential. They are also willing to release products before the tech (hardware, not software) is there to back it up, then it fades because it was a 'failure.' 5 years later someone else comes along and develops it anew and it's great.


RE: Kin
By johnsmith9875 on 2/19/2013 12:48:05 AM , Rating: 2
Microsoft isn't visionary at all, but not all people want visionary but they do want a company that will support their product. Microsoft's history is full of abandon-ware, leaving people in the lurch desperately hoping for an upgrade or an update which will never come.


RE: Kin
By Gunbuster on 2/19/2013 9:40:18 AM , Rating: 3
Wait Microsoft is not visionary? Developing an ecosystem and interface that scales from phone and tablet up to large screen and table top surfaces all with the programming tools (often given for free) to back it up.

What does android have? A race to have more cores in every phone so we don’t have to reboot them every day? Handsets with abandoned versions of the OS.

What does iOS have for vision? A skeuomorphic leather calendar and the same app grid we’ve had from the beginning.

Look at user comments. Microsoft brings a new vision of the interface and people complain. It’s too hard to learn and at the same time looks like a child’s toy. They can’t win because apparently the consumer is too lazy to invest 20 minutes in learning a new interface and at the same time far less developed than their own children.


RE: Kin
By Cheesew1z69 on 2/19/2013 6:17:42 PM , Rating: 1
If you have to reboot your android each day to work properly, that isn't android...


RE: Kin
By Tony Swash on 2/19/2013 6:34:57 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Wait Microsoft is not visionary? Developing an ecosystem and interface that scales from phone and tablet up to large screen and table top surfaces all with the programming tools (often given for free) to back it up.

What does android have? A race to have more cores in every phone so we don’t have to reboot them every day? Handsets with abandoned versions of the OS.

What does iOS have for vision? A skeuomorphic leather calendar and the same app grid we’ve had from the beginning.

Look at user comments. Microsoft brings a new vision of the interface and people complain. It’s too hard to learn and at the same time looks like a child’s toy. They can’t win because apparently the consumer is too lazy to invest 20 minutes in learning a new interface and at the same time far less developed than their own children.


I think that Microsoft should be applauded for being truly innovative with Windows Phone rather than just lamely copying iOS like Android. I have only briefly played with my brother's Nokia Windows phone and it seemed very nice, although not my cup of tea.

But in the end whether Microsoft's phone is OS is best or not is moot. Microsoft so bungled the strategy that it is now left with what likes an insurmountable mountain to climb just to get into contention in the mobile device market. I fear Surface and Windows 8 was a blunder in the tablet space. I will be very surprised if Microsoft end up having any real presence of consequence in the mobile device markets.


"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton














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