Bill Gates

Microsoft’s struggles in the mobile market have been well-document. Windows Phone could not compete with Android and was ultimately shuttered by the company. However, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates believes the company would be atop the mobile platform market today if not for an unitrust investigation at the turn of the century.

That antirust investigation was carried out by the US Department of Justice. While speaking to The New York Times’ DealBook conference, Gates described the legal battle as a distraction. The former Microsoft CEO says there is no “doubt the antitrust lawsuit was bad for Microsoft”.

Gates thinks Microsoft would have been more focused on creating mobile OS technology. With the case proving distracting, Windows Phone did not reach its potential. Gates says Microsoft “screwed that up”.

In the fast-moving mobile market, Gates says Microsoft was “three months too late on a release”, which was enough to allow rivals to get a head start.

Bill Gates has previously said Microsoft deciding not to buy Android was a huge mistake. Gates describes missing out on buying Android when Google acquired the company was one of his “greatest mistakes ever”. While he admits the result has not particularly harmed Microsoft as the company’s other divisions thrive, he says missing out on mobile meant Microsoft is competing instead of dominating:

“It’s amazing to me that having made one of the greatest mistakes of all time, and there was this antitrust lawsuit and various things, that our other assets like Windows and Office are still very strong, so we are a leading company,” says Gates. “If we had gotten that one right, we would be the leading company, but oh well.”

Ballmer

Steve Ballmer, who followed Gates as CEO of Microsoft has echoed Gates’ sentiments on being too late to mobile. He tried to address the balance by embracing hardware, something he says caused a strain between him and gates:

When asked how he would handle the Windows Phone differently, stating that he “would have moved into the hardware business faster and recognized that what we had with the PC that there was a separation. [Our] chips, systems, and software [success], wasn’t largely going to reproduce itself in the mobile world.