Only two people in the entire world have a net worth of more than $100 billion. Bill Gates
, co-founder of Microsoft
, is one of them. He earned his fortune by spearheading the world's largest PC software company, and with his vast wealth, it's hard to fathom him having many regrets. Even so, he does readily admit to the "greatest mistake ever" during his heyday at Microsoft, and it is a big one.
He regrets not building Android
, or more specifically, the equivalent of what Androids represents in the mobile world.
"You know, in the software world, in particular for platforms, these are winner-take-all markets. So, you know, the greatest mistake ever is the whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is, [meaning] Android is the standard non-Apple phone form platform. That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win.," Gates said recently
Gates made the comment to Eventbrite co-founder and CEO Julia Hartz, during a recent event for founders by the venture firm Village Global, according to TechCrunch
. That snippet about not building a competitive mobile product on the level of Android and iOS
was part of a longer answer to a question about finding a balance between work and life.
From his perspective, not hitting on mobile the way Google
did potentially cost Microsoft hundreds of millions of dollars. There is the hardware angle, which Microsoft finds itself dabbling in these days (with Surface), but he's really talking about software.
"If you’re there with half as many apps or 90 percent as many apps, you’re on your way to complete doom. There’s room for exactly one non-Apple operating system, and what’s that worth? $400 billion that would be transferred from company G [Google] to company M [Microsoft]," Gates added.
Microsoft is not an afterthought in the tech world, of course—it has a market cap of over $1 trillion dollar. However, Gates feels that in addition to being a leading company, Microsoft could have been "the company," had it executed in mobile.
The effort was there, things just did not fall into place. As they say, Microsoft gave it the ol' college try, first with Windows Mobile nearly two decades ago, and then with Windows Phone, support for which is coming to an end
While Gates laments not building a true alternative to iOS, his focus these days is on philanthropy. Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a private foundation he co-founded with this wife Melinda, he has made a major positive impact in developing countries. Warren Buffet, another of the world's richest individuals, also has ties to the foundation (he's one of three trustees, the other two being the Gates couple).