“Greatest mistake ever”: Bill Gates on his biggest career regret

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 24:  Microsoft principle founder Bill Gates participates in a discussion during a luncheon of the Economic Club of Washington June 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. Gates discussed various topics including climate change. Source: Getty
Bill Gates explains his biggest career regret. Source: Getty

Billionaire and Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, has made many a good career moves in his lifetime.

In 1975, Gates dropped out of his sophomore year at Harvard to launch Microsoft with his mate, Paul Allen.

He never believed in weekends or vacations, and this dedication was the driving force behind Microsoft’s now-$1 trillion valuation.

But, during a recent interview, Gates revealed his all-time greatest mistake: “So the greatest mistake ever is whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is.”

Gates said Android’s standing as the non-Apple phone platform was a “natural thing” for Microsoft to become.

“It really is winner take all,” he said.

“If you’re there with half as many apps or 90 percent as many apps, you’re on your way to complete doom.”

“There’s room for exactly one non-Apple operating system and what’s that worth? $400 billion that would be transferred from company G to company M,” he said.

While Microsoft had the early standing with Windows Mobile in 2000, it failed to keep up in the smartphone era, losing out to Apple, who debuted the iPhone in 2007, and Google, who debuted the Android platform one year later.

In another interview earlier this week, Gates blamed the antitrust trial (the result of lawsuits filed by the US Department of Justice, 20 states, and the District of Columbia, accusing Microsoft of illegal, anti-competitive and exclusionary practices) for the lack of movement in developing mobile software.

"We were distracted during our antitrust trial. We didn't assign the best people to do the work,” Gates said.

“So it's the biggest mistake I made in terms of something that was clearly within our skillset. We were clearly the company that should have achieved that — and we didn't,” he said.

But, while he regretted those mistakes, he said Microsoft’s Windows and Office assets were still very strong.

“We are a leading company,” he said.

“If we had gotten that one right, we would be the leading company, but oh well.”

Gates, who revealed he uses an Android phone, stepped down as Microsoft’s CEO in 2000, and stepped down as its chief software architect in July 2008.

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