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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 Wolfpup on 2/19/2013 9:48:45 AM , Rating: 2
From what I used of Windows Phone 7.5 it's pretty great...has a LOT of ideas other companies could stand to copy.

Still, podcast support on iOS/syncing remains best by far on iOS, and there's no good way to back up/manage programs on anything but iOS :-/

I'm a *fan* of a lot of Windows Mobile's ideas...the problem to me was it was really buggy and super rough. Every time I tried a Windows Mobile device I'd have some different, horrible problem with it, and it was crazy that something as basic as closing a program pretty much required third party support to do (or 900 button presses lol)

I like a lot of Windows Phone, but I don't like that it's just as closed as iOS, only even worse because it doesn't sync with my PC very well (how ironic is that?) and you can't at least back up programs/manage 'em on your PC.

Not to mention there's no non-phone version.


"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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