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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: 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.


"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home














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