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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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RE: Windows 8 Phone is great
By AnnihilatorX on 2/19/2013 8:34:25 AM , Rating: 2
The problem with microsoft is, it is relying too much on Nokia.

Yes, Lumia is a great phone, however, stupid exclusive contracts are severing the whole Windows 8 phone growth, at least in the UK.

I was looking to get a lumia 920, but I could not find it Sim free anywhere. It was exclusive to EE, which was overpriced because it had a 4G monopoly.

The only thought I had was, Microsoft and Nokia were both not in a position to have exclusive agreements, it is limiting growth and customer choices. What on earth were they smoking I don't know, but even a moron can run the marketing side better.

RE: Windows 8 Phone is great
By JPForums on 2/19/2013 9:48:17 AM , Rating: 3
Yes, Lumia is a great phone, however, stupid exclusive contracts are severing the whole Windows 8 phone growth, at least in the UK.
Normally you'd be correct, but Nokia is having problems keeping up with the demand the Lumia is currently generating. Rather than increase expenditures to pump out more phones (which they could easily do) and risk not being able to sell them, they've decided to play it safe. Exclusivity agreements are a great way to artificially limit availability to levels they can actually supply without increasing risk. On top of it, they get to make money off of the carriers for the exclusivity rights.

The problem with microsoft is, it is relying too much on Nokia.
True statement. Nokia alone may not be in a great position to push more phones, but Microsoft has a whole slew of partners to make up the difference. Samsung alone could push out enough phones to double Windows Phones entire market share without breaking a sweat. While HTC has a really nice WP8 available, it is curious that Samsung doesn't. The Samsung Focus was considered the classic WP7 and I believe Samsung had more WP7 models than any of their competitors, so it strikes my as a bit odd that they don't have a WP8 model yet. Many would buy it for the OLED display alone. I get the distinct feeling that Microsoft pissed them off.

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