Gates admits Microsoft mobile strategy “a mistake”

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Late start cited as reason for Windows Phone 7 flop

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20 February 2013 | 0

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Ever since the iPhone debuted in 2007, Microsoft has struggled to adapt to the quickly changing smartphone world – and company co-founder and chairman Bill Gates knows it. "There’s a lot of things, like cellphones, where we didn’t get out in the lead very early," Gates said in an interview with on US TV. "We didn’t miss cellphones, but the way we went about it didn’t allow us to get the leadership. So it’s clearly a mistake."

Microsoft was very late to adapt to change as Apple’s iPhone and handsets loaded with Google’s Android mobile operating system exploded in popularity. The software giant finally got its act together in late 2010 when it released Windows Phone 7, a touch-centric mobile OS that replaced the decrepit Windows Mobile.

Despite a positive critical reception, however, Windows Phone 7 wasn’t a smash hit. By early 2012, market research firm Nielsen said Windows Phone claimed fewer users than the aging Windows Mobile platform in the US.

There are many opinions about why Windows Phone 7 has stalled. Poor carrier support, a comparatively sparse app store and Windows Phone’s unique interface kept users from adopting the smartphone lineup en masse. In September 2012, a month prior to the launch of Windows Phone 8, Microsoft handsets claimed about 3.6% of US smartphone users, according to metrics firm comScore.

But it’s not all bad news for Windows Phone 8. Nokia, Microsoft’s largest smartphone partner, has released new low- and high-end Windows Phone devices. More phone manufacturers, including LG and Asus, may announce Windows Phone 8 devices in the coming weeks, possibly during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, which starts next Monday. LG dumped Windows Phone last April; the company said at the time that it had no plans to release more Windows Phones, citing poor sales.

Global sales of Windows Phone devices increased by just over 124% during the last three months of 2012 compared to the year previous, according to market research firm Gartner. Another report, this time from IDC, said Windows Phone worldwide device shipments grew by 150% during the last quarter of 2012.

Based on IDC’s numbers, Windows Phone is closing in on BlackBerry and could overtake its closest rival to become the third most popular smartphone platform worldwide. Even so, the research firm reports that Windows Phone accounted for just 2.6% of the worldwide market at the end of 2012, trailing way behind Android at 70.1% and iOS at 21%.

There’s little doubt that Microsoft has made mistakes in its cellphone strategy over the past five years, but so has BlackBerry, Hewlett-Packard, and the now defunct Palm. The good news for Microsoft is the future is looking a little bit brighter for Windows Phone, and the best days could be yet to come if the company’s cross-platform vision for Windows bears fruit.

IDG News Service

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