Just as former Microsoft exec and former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop feared, the mobile market has become a two-horse race between Android and iOS. More than that, however, Android has overtaken Windows as the most Internet-connected platform and iOS, particular iPadOS, threatens to displace Windows on some fronts. In some alternate reality, however, Windows Mobile could have been the dominant mobile platform, a possibility that, at least according to Microsoft founder and ex-CEO Bill Gates, was destroyed by the US government’s antitrust lawsuit in 1998.
It was a distraction, Gates told the New York Times. The case took much of Microsoft’s resources and attention that could have been applied instead to its mobile operating system. Had that case not happened, Microsoft would be a very different company and Gates would have been CEO for a bit longer as well.
Some, of course, would probably think it wishful thinking or sour graping. While it did have its share of fans, Windows Mobile, in all its incarnations and versions. failed to come close to competing with Android and iOS. The two mobile platforms proved that apps are where it’s at and Windows Mobile never gained that much traction in terms of mobile apps. Part of that may have been due to the very association and expectation of Windows to support desktop apps, no matter the form factor.
Microsoft’s failure to corner the mobile market is one of Gates’ biggest regrets as told by interviews. The company now relies on both Android and iOS to carry its apps and services to mobile users. That could still change in the future but, at least for now, that alternate reality is dead in the water.
Gates offers Microsoft’s experience as a cautionary tale for both the tech industry and even the government. Antitrust cases against some of today’s tech giants could have chilling effects on the market. Of course, that shouldn’t be used as an excuse not to hold such companies accountable for illegal activities they shouldn’t have been doing in the first place.