Bill Gates on missed opportunity: Microsoft didn’t end up doing the mobile OS well enough… I made mistakes

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has said that missing out on the mobile operating system was a big regret for him. “Microsoft didn’t end up doing the phone operating system well enough. I made mistakes there that I regret,” Gates said in an exclusive interview with Anant Goenka, Executive Director, The Indian Express Group.

This is not the first time that Gates has spoken about the missed opportunity with regard to mobile operating systems. In a 2019 interview with Village Global, a venture capital firm, Gates had called it his ‘greatest mistake’ saying mobile software was something that Microsoft should have naturally won.

“In the software world, particularly for platforms, these are winner-take-all markets. So the greatest mistake ever is whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is,” he had said at the time.

While Windows Mobile OS had been present since 2000, it never quite made the mark as Android. In 2015, Windows 10 Mobile was announced, but it too failed to have an impact on the market. Microsoft officially ended support in 2019 for its mobile operating system.

On online education

Talking about whether digital solutions could help beat growing inequities in society, Gates said he had a lot of faith in the new online learning systems which have sprung up in response to pandemic.

“I think online has a huge promise for improving education. And of course if we improve education that helps the entire economy, you know the human resources are the main resource in all countries, particularly in India. My interest is in how the Indian education system can be better. It’s one that’s fascinated me. because it’s key to how fast the country moves forward,” he said.

On regulating Big Tech

Asked whether there should be a new way for regulators to approach and think about big tech, Gates said it is a constantly evolving issue.

“How do we make sure that all companies are innovating on behalf of their users and what the boundaries should be. India has ruled that Amazon can’t sell their own products on their marketplace and other countries don’t have that. But I do think other countries are debating. Is that a good rule or is that limiting the opportunities? Does it preserve competition?” he asked.

According to him, it is the key job for the government to decide what the rules of engagement should be on the internet and to make them clear to the tech companies.

Asked what he would do if had to rebuild the internet from the ground up, Gates said the basic assumption that one is anonymous causes some difficulties and some of the inability to control the security causes some difficulties. “The identity part and the security part, we’re kind of having to layer that on and it’s, it’s not as natural as it should be,” he added.

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