Former Microsoft CEO and chairman Bill Gates has claimed that Windows Phone would have beaten Android had the company not been distracted by an antitrust case.
Speaking at the New York Times DealBook Conference on the 6th of November, Gates said that without the case, Microsoft would have been able to concentrate on getting the new OS ready for launch on an unnamed Motorola device.
Instead, Windows Phone 7, as the successor to Windows Mobile 6.5 was called, launched on a number of HTC devices in 2010, nearly two years after the first Android phone, the HTC Dream – better known in the UK as the T-Mobile G1 – landed in September 2008.
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The case was against Microsoft by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1998 over the practice of bundling Internet Explorer with copies of Windows, to the detriment of rival browser Netscape, and was eventually settled in 2001.
“Instead of Android today, you would be using Windows Mobile. If it hadn’t been for the anti-trust case – we were so close! – we, I, you know, I was just too distracted, I screwed that up, because of the distraction,” Gates said.
“You know, we were just three months too late for the release that Motorola would have used on a phone, so, yes. It’s a winner-takes-all game for sure. Now, nobody here has ever heard of Windows Mobile.”
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The remarks were made at the 21:14 mark, following questions about taxes and the role of governments in the tech sector. As a result of the 1998 case, Microsoft was forced to share access to Windows APIs for a limited time, but ultimately it was not stopped from bundling Microsoft services with copies of Windows.
Now, Google is currently facing a wide-ranging probe of its own, with a total of 50 attorneys general across the United States looking into whether the search and advertising giant inhibits competition.
In a twist of fate, Microsoft is gearing up to launch the Surface Duo, a foldable Android smartphone that’s due to go on sale next year, and will officially cease supporting existing devices running Windows Phone at the end of 2019.
This isn’t the first time Gates has aired sour grapes over Windows Phone losing out to Android. Back in June, Gates told venture capital company Village Global that failing to beat Google in the mobile space was his “biggest mistake”.