There may exist a parallel universe where Android is second fiddle to Windows Mobile. Or maybe Microsoft's ill-fated (in this universe) mobile operating is so dominant that Android falls by the wayside, relegated to a footnote in the history of tech. Things did not work out that way in the universe we reside, though according to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Windows Mobile could have won the war, had he not been distracted with an antitrust case brought forward by the US Justice Department.
It is a relevant topic, particularly in today's political climate where presidential candidates debate on whether big companies like Facebook should be broken up. Microsoft faced a similar scenario back when Gates was still running the show. These days he is retired from Microsoft and laser focused on philanthropy, but boy-oh-boy, does he have an opinion on what could have been.
"There’s no doubt the antitrust lawsuit was bad for Microsoft, and we would have been more focused on creating the phone operating system, and so instead of using Android today, you would be using Windows Mobile if it hadn’t been for the antitrust case," Gates told Andrew Ross Sorkin, a New York Times columnist and a co-anchor of CNBC's Squawk Box.
Gates believes Microsoft was "so close" to dominating in mobile. It is an interesting opinion that runs counter to what many tech historians may feel is accurate, but as far as Gates is concerned, Microsoft was positioned to make Windows Mobile more popular than Android (instead, Gates in 2017 ditched his Windows Phone for an Android handset).
"I was just too distracted. I screwed that up because of the distraction. We were just three months too late with the release that Motorola would have used on a phone. So, yes, it's a winner take all game, that is for sure. Now nobody here has ever heard of Windows Mobile," Gates said.
Put another way, Gates believes Windows Mobile would have had a bright future if it wasn't for those meddling
kids government officials. He does not come off as overly bitter about how things turned out, though he definitely has strong feelings on the subject, and is "disappointed Windows Mobile did not succeed."
As an interesting aside, Gates also said he would not have retired as soon as he did, if not for the antitrust case. Though he also says, "I don't have a life where I'm allowed to complain, because basically only 99 percent of things have worked out very, very well." That's something we can all probably agree on.