No, Bill. No (Premium)

It’s hard watching Microsoft’s former CEOs prostrate themselves and apologize for their previous misdeeds. Especially when they get it wrong.

It happened before with Steve Ballmer, who apologized in recent years—incorrectly—for being “wrong” about the iPhone when it was first released. Ballmer wasn’t wrong. His assertions about the iPhone—that it was too expensive and did not appeal to business customers—were so on the nose that Apple dropped the price of the flailing device by an incredible $200 just two months after it launched and then trumpeted its successor’s support of Exchange/EAS and other enterprise features a year later.

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Ballmer also apologized for not following up Windows with a “second act” that he says could have been turning Microsoft into a “world-class hardware company.” Again, he was wrong to do so. Software wasn’t just Microsoft’s core area of expertise—its only truly successful hardware product at the time was a mouse—but more to the point, Microsoft’s real success was in partnering with others, including and perhaps especially hardware makers.

What Ballmer was really responding to in both of these public displays of wrong-headed self-inspection was what had happened in the wake of Microsoft’s back-to-back antitrust defeats. It’s a period of time that many now call Microsoft’s “lost decade.” When rivals like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook were able to rise unimpeded by a software colossus that had never before been defeated in any material way. These firms could never have succeeded to the level they did had they faced an unfettered, uninhibited Microsoft.

And now Bill Gates, Microsoft’s co-founder and first CEO, is doing it too.

In a recent interview, Gates was asked about his biggest mistake. And he replied, essentially, that Windows Phone was his biggest mistake, that he/Microsoft should have established its mobile platform as the dominant challenger to the iPhone, and not Google with Android.

“Platforms … are winner-take-all markets,” he said. “So, the greatest mistake ever is whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is. That is, Android is the standard phone platform, non-Apple phone platform. That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win. And it really is winner take all. 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.”

Ah boy.

Just to get this out of the way, Microsoft’s defeat in mobile had almost nothing to do with Windows Phone. Those seeds were sown many years earlier.

As denoted by its original name, Windows Phone 7, that product was just an evolution of (more than) several revisions to a mobile platform that had its root in Windows CE in the mid-1990s. Windows CE originally targeted miniature PC-like devices called Handheld PCs, or HPCs. But it was adapted to power a series of PDAs—Palm-sized PCs, Pocket PC, and so on—to rival Palm. And then it moved into smartphones in 2002—five years before the iPhone—with Smartphone 2002 and then Windows Mobile 2003, 5, and 6.x. These products competed with RIM (Blackberry), Nokia, and other smartphone platform makers of the day.

The iPhone was released in 2007 and, as we know, it changed everything.

Google had purchased a tiny firm called Android and was working to release a smartphone platform that was very similar to competing platforms and would ship on devices that were very similar to those using Blackberry, Nokia, or Windows Mobile. But it recast Android as an iPhone OS knockoff, just as Samsung and other hardware makers raced to copy the iPhone’s hardware design.

Microsoft’s response to the iPhone was slower than Google’s, for sure. After stumbling a bit with a final Windows Mobile 6.5 release that added a touch-based home screen and little else to the system’s aging infrastructure—a classic “lipstick on a pig” moment—it finally killed off Windows Mobile 7 while in development and started over with Windows Phone 7.

The product it created was hastily-cobbled together and would need to be refined over several iterations. But the ideas were pure: Rather than just copy the iPhone, as Google did, Microsoft rethought everything and tried to create a platform that wasn’t just different, but was better. History shows us that this effort failed, and it didn’t help that Microsoft was forced to change the underlying platform and the technologies that developers used to write apps three times. But it failed in part because it was so late to the party. And not because Android was free: Google charges for Android just like Microsoft did for Windows Phone.

So, that’s a nice story. And it seems to bolster Gates’ opinion that Windows Phone was his biggest mistake. After all, Android today runs roughshod over the industry and is installed on over 80 percent of all smartphones shipped worldwide. This level of success is analogous to what Windows achieved on PCs. It all makes sense, right?

No, it doesn’t. All this episode really proves is how small-minded the renowned businessman, technologist, and philanthropist Bill Gates can be.

The big dig against Bill Gates—and it is an accurate complaint—is that he and the company he created never innovated in any meaningful way. Instead, Gates and Microsoft took the best ideas of others—the GUI, countless productivity applications, programming languages and environments, pen computing, mobile computing, whatever—and then just ruthlessly destroyed those who innovated while powering their way to the top. Gates and Microsoft stole, destroyed, and iterated. There are countless examples.

The second big complaint against Gates and the company he created, and this is a problem you will all recognize to this day, is that he was never a great finisher. Most of what Gates and Microsoft shipped was never really perfect or fine-tuned. There was just a “ship it” mentality, not a “get it right” mentality. From the first version of Windows to Windows 10 today, almost 35 years later, this has been a constant.

With both of those things in mind, let’s revisit what Gates just said.

“Android is the standard phone platform, non-Apple phone platform. That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win. And it really is winner take all. 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.”

In other words, in Gates’s view, what should have happened is that another company (Apple) innovated the smartphone market, because it’s always some other company that innovates. And then Microsoft, the great destroyer, should have come along, stolen those ideas, destroyed that innovator, and then iterated on top of that stolen work. You know, as it did with Windows back in the day.

I’m sorry, but that is just … sad.

Gates never innovated, and it doesn’t seem to bother him that Microsoft didn’t and couldn’t create the modern smartphone market. He also never created anything other than a culture, which persists in parts of Microsoft to this day, of not innovating and not getting things right the first time. And then not fixing the problems.

Let’s compare this to Apple. Under Steve Jobs, Apple was known as a great innovator, but the reality is that very little of Apple’s innovations and product releases represented individual new ideas. Apple, like Microsoft, built on what came before. But the difference between the companies, their cultures, and the personalities—Jobs, Gates—with which they are most closely associated, couldn’t be starker. Where Gates stole, destroyed, and then released half-assed products, Jobs stole, fine-tuned, waited until everything was just right, and then released full-realized products. (Apple today is a little more complicated, and a little more like Microsoft. But that’s another story.) Apple is often criticized for moving slowly. But come on. When it ships, it gets it right.

The problem with Microsoft from the perspective of this Microsoft follower is that the company’s early history is tainted. And it’s tainted because of Bill Gates and his lack of ethics and empathy, his inability to innovate, and the culture he infused into the company he created. Microsoft today is trying to shake all that off. But it came to power because Gates was a ruthless businessman, not because it had the best technology. And when his inability to be ruthless was stripped away from him because of the antitrust issues his business practices created, Microsoft stumbled, lost a decade, and its competitors surged.

And that, folks, is Bill Gates’ biggest mistake.

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  • jchampeau

    Premium Member
    25 June, 2019 - 9:04 am

    <p>This is the kind of analysis that makes the premium membership worth paying for, and that's missing from other news sites.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      25 June, 2019 - 9:08 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#437358">In reply to jchampeau:</a></em></blockquote><p>Thanks… I worry that people today forget how terrible Gates and Microsoft were for the first 20-25 years or so. </p>

      • markld

        Premium Member
        25 June, 2019 - 9:52 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#437361">In reply to paul-thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>Did not Bill Gates say to the buying of a certain company, that if they said no to his offer, he would use the money he was going to give them to fight them? </p><p>Great and accurate post, nice read for the first read of the day! </p>

        • Paul Thurrott

          Premium Member
          25 June, 2019 - 11:00 am

          <blockquote><em><a href="#437379">In reply to Markld:</a></em></blockquote><p>Companies used to show Microsoft what they were working on in hopes that Microsoft would license/buy it. Then Microsoft would announce the same functionality either as part of DOS or Windows, or as a separate product. The best example of this is Go Computing, which led to Microsoft's Pen Computing initiative a decade before the Tablet PC.</p>

          • hrlngrv

            Premium Member
            25 June, 2019 - 1:38 pm

            <p><a href="; target="_blank"><em>In reply to paul-thurrott:</em></a></p><blockquote>. . . in hopes that Microsoft would license/buy it . . .</blockquote><p>IOW, no one learned anything from what MSFT did to the Lifeboat C Compiler. MSFT licensed it, sold it under MSFT branding, then came out with MSFT C version 3 with nothing from Lifeboat, but MSFT had established itself as a compiler vendor using Lifeboat's IP.</p>

          • markld

            Premium Member
            25 June, 2019 - 6:27 pm

            <blockquote><em><a href="#437399">In reply to paul-thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>Thanks for the info</p>

      • dstrauss

        25 June, 2019 - 9:55 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#437361">In reply to paul-thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>That's because the majority of users today were born during that formative period, without first hand knowledge of what Internet Explorer did to Netscape; Word did to WordPerfect; Excel did to Lotus 123 (DOS isn't done until Lotus won't run); that Windows 1.0 was a joke of tiled windows and cooperative multitasking; the disaster network services were until Windows 98 SE.</p><p><br></p><p>I was a beta tester (law office) for WordPerfect 5, the first Windows version of WordPerfect, and MS was so bad back then that shortly after each major beta release we would get a Windows update from MS that crashed the newest WordPerfect beta, yet MS's excuse was they were "enhancing" compatibility.</p><p><br></p><p>But I do think you are off by one note – it wasn't "ship it and forget it" but more a case of "get it out the door and maybe by version 3-4 (or in the case of Windows – 10?) we'll get it right." </p>

        • Paul Thurrott

          Premium Member
          25 June, 2019 - 11:00 am

          <blockquote><em><a href="#437381">In reply to dstrauss:</a></em></blockquote><p>Yeah, there was that whole "3 versions to get it right" thing.</p>

          • ndwilder

            26 June, 2019 - 2:45 pm

            <blockquote><em><a href="#437400">In reply to paul-thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p><br></p><p>Yup…DOS 6.0, 6.2, 6.22…;)</p>

      • ndelena

        Premium Member
        25 June, 2019 - 3:18 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#437361">In reply to paul-thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>I think I still have a “Microsoft is Satan” sticker from a mid-1990s Boston Macintosh User Group meeting…</p>

  • VMax

    Premium Member
    25 June, 2019 - 9:06 am

    <p>"<span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">Gates and Microsoft stole, destroyed, and iterated." "Most of what Gates and Microsoft shipped was never really perfect or fine-tuned. There was just a “ship it” mentality, not a “get it right” mentality."</span></p><p><br></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">It sounds like Bill's big innovation was coming up with Silicon Valley's "Fail Fast" mantra a couple of decades early.</span></p>

  • Lauren Glenn

    25 June, 2019 - 9:06 am

    <p>I would've thought the biggest failure of the Windows Phone was that it tried to be Apple instead of trying to be Microsoft. They locked down Windows Phone 7 as if they were trying to act like Apple. Android was more open and most of the features that we ended up eventually getting in WP 10 should've been there in 8 (or even 7)…… but they really should've let Zune synchronize to the 8 phone instead of using MTP…. it was so annoying to put music on the thing once they did that.</p><p><br></p><p>But I still remember many apps having no access to good APIs like being able to write to a micro SD card in WP8 or being able to download podcasts like the built-in app could, etc. It was great for things like having a text chat while driving and you didn't have to look at the phone…. but they made it frustrating to use that no app developer could really do much with it…. </p><p><br></p><p>Instead of being as open as the PC market, they tried to make WP like the iOS/Mac market instead of doing what they did best… PC OS's.</p><p><br></p><p>But in a way, a least he didn't say Zune was the biggest mistake. Zune was awesome. Too bad they killed it and just ruined it.</p>

    • hrlngrv

      Premium Member
      26 June, 2019 - 2:17 am

      <p><a href="; target="_blank"><em>In reply to alissa914:</em></a></p><blockquote>They locked down Windows Phone 7 as if they were trying to act like Apple.</blockquote><p>You don't believe MSFT lusted after 30% of revenues from Windows then MSFT Store app sales?</p>

  • legend

    Premium Member
    25 June, 2019 - 9:15 am

    <p>Thank you, Paul, this is a great article!</p>

  • Matthias Götzke

    25 June, 2019 - 9:16 am

    <p>I am a little tired of reading Ballmer was not wrong. Of course he was. He was wrong to fixate on initial price and Exchange support as big issues. Those were easily very easily fixed as Apple proved.</p><p><br></p><p>The threat came from:</p><p><br></p><p> 1) having an extremely advanced and well designed OS (basically NeXTStep) running on a portable device with a great CPU</p><p> 2) a great design with absolutely magnificent materials and unheard of touch interaction quality</p><p> 3) <span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">UX patterns which people were immediately drawn to and everything else felt instantly old</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);"> 4) a supply chain that scaled up very well of the years. Allowing them to increase production consistently, while</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);"> retaining low supply side prices due to high predictable volume</span></p><p><br></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">When Ballmer had his infamous interview, I thought he must know that (maybe he underestimated the supply chain) and is just talking about obvious stuff to distract, while secretly having his people work their asses off to get 1-4 in place. But it turned out he</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">did nothing of that sort. When they did it was too late and based on rather cumbersome developer tools (compared to iOS at the time).</span></p><p><br></p><p><br></p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      25 June, 2019 - 9:23 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#437364">In reply to matthiasg:</a></em></blockquote><p>Ballmer was right, as I explain in the linked-to article. </p>

      • jgraebner

        Premium Member
        26 June, 2019 - 6:05 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#437367">In reply to paul-thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>I think you do a good job of explaining why everything he said was factually correct. Frankly, a lot of us that were already users of existing smartphone platforms (Blackberry/Palm/Windows Mobile) were pretty skeptical of the iPhone since it was simultaneously much more expensive and extremely feature starved compared to what was otherwise available. </p><p><br></p><p>It seems to me the point that matthiasg made, which is largely accurate, is that Balmer made a factually correct statement that simultaneously missed the entire point of why the iPhone was generating so much excitement. The problems with the first iPhone were very real, but they were also so easily fixable as to be essentially irrelevant.</p><p><br></p><p>Your analysis kind of glosses over this part of Ballmer's original statement: "So I kind of look at that and I say, you know, I like our strategy. I like it a lot." Frankly, that quote is basically an expression of the main thing that ultimately cost him his job. He really liked a strategy that turned out to be extremely misguided and his reaction to the game changer was to basically dismiss it.</p><p><br></p>

  • terry jones

    25 June, 2019 - 9:17 am

    <p>Gates was simply doing what every successful businessman before him had done. Whatever it takes to succeed until you get too big, and then you get pushback.</p><p>I believe it's called Capitalism. An imperfect, nasty system that leaves a lot of bodies in its wake. </p><p>But it's the best we've come up with, and has led to a standard of living that the world has never seen before.</p><p>It sure beats the hell out of whatever system is in second place.</p><p><br></p><p><br></p>

    • Wondering_Bard

      25 June, 2019 - 12:01 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#437365">In reply to terry jones:</a></em></blockquote><p>No nation in the world is a fully capitalist system. Most successful countries take a blend of capitalism and socialism and use both to check and balance each other. </p><p><br></p><p>This situation is proof that this blend works. Microsoft (capitalism) did go out bounds, got too big, and the government used anti-monopolostic regulations (socialist regulatory policy) to push back to protect the people and the national resource. </p><p><br></p><p>It's an imperfect system that gets even more imperfect everytime someone cuts the balance in half, draws a line in the sand, and declares one side better than the other. </p><p><br></p><p><br></p>

  • PeterC

    25 June, 2019 - 9:17 am

    <p>I don’t really disagree with your summing up Paul. However, I do think somethings else is at play here. Mr Gates is going out in public stating this position for a reason, he’s hoovering up the remaining “issues” related to Microsoft’s failure in mobile and taking responsibility for them in front of investors, fans and users alike, irrespective of the actual truth on the matter – he’s giving Nadella a clean sheet to go forward with….</p><p><br></p><p>Whatever Going forward Is going to look like is not exactly clear, but maybe some of it will be appearing this autumn with the first Core OS products and…… android apps.</p><p><br></p><p>If this is a classic Microsoft manoeuvre of embrace and extend then it’s going to be a long drawn out affair. I still think they hope to win over android app developers by getting them onto “desktops” and gain their trust and business, before backfilling a mobile offering with same app developers in years to come…. but it’s a long play, a very long play, unless of course …. the US-China schenanigan massively disrupts androids global footprint, which would certainly happen if Chinese manufacturers turned away en masse from stock android for their Chinese domestic and strategic international markets of India, Russia and Africa…. maybe…. </p>

    • james.h.robinson

      Premium Member
      25 June, 2019 - 9:35 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#437366">In reply to PeterC:</a></em></blockquote><p>Bingo! I think you're right!!!</p>

  • djross95

    Premium Member
    25 June, 2019 - 9:31 am

    <p>Ouch. This sounds personal, Paul! 🙂 </p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      25 June, 2019 - 10:59 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#437376">In reply to djross95:</a></em></blockquote><p>No. 🙂 Not sure what you mean.</p>

  • Sprtfan

    25 June, 2019 - 10:06 am

    <p><em style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">Rather than just copy the iPhone, as Google did, Microsoft rethought everything and tried to create a platform that wasn’t just different, but was better.</em></p><p><br></p><p><em style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">In other words, in Gates’s view, what should have happened is that another company (Apple) innovated the smartphone market, because it’s always some other company that innovates. And then Microsoft, the great destroyer, should have come along, stolen those ideas, destroyed that innovator, and then iterated on top of that stolen work.</em></p><p><br></p><p>So Gates's biggest mistake was trying to innovate then? If Microsoft just ripped off Apple like Google did Microsoft would be the alternative mobile OS instead? (I'm being serious even though that sounds a little sarcastic) I do think that being slow out of the gate hurt Microsoft in mobile and just getting something out the door might have been the best strategy. Android didn't try to get it right or innovate that is for sure. Early versions of Android were painfully awful. </p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      25 June, 2019 - 10:58 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#437384">In reply to Sprtfan:</a></em></blockquote><p>Belatedly trying to innovate in response to something truly innovative isn't innovating. :)</p>

      • Sprtfan

        25 June, 2019 - 11:51 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#437397">In reply to paul-thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>So the mistake might have been trying to iterate on top of what Apple did instead of just copying and getting a product out the door like Google did. </p>

  • Pbike908

    25 June, 2019 - 10:16 am

    <p>Kudos to Paul — a great perspective….And I have to agree that Microsoft under Gates was poor when it came to innovation and Microsoft shipped a lot of half–baked software products.</p>

  • Corey Ditter

    Premium Member
    25 June, 2019 - 11:05 am

    <p>"His assertions about the iPhone—that it was too expensive and did not appeal to business customers—were so on the nose that Apple dropped the price of the flailing device by an incredible $200 just two months after it launched and then trumpeted its successor’s support of Exchange/EAS and other enterprise features a year later."</p><p><br></p><p>"Apple is often criticized for moving slowly. But come on. When it ships, it gets it right."</p><p><br></p><p>Aren't these excerpts completely contradicting each other?</p><p><br></p>

    • jimchamplin

      Premium Member
      25 June, 2019 - 12:50 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#437407">In reply to c_ditt1:</a></em></blockquote><p>Not really. The original iPhone was absolutely stunning in 2007. There was absolutely nothing like it. The execution was flawless and it meant the experience was a blow-you-away moment.</p><p><br></p><p>Sure, “other smartphones existed.” And as far as functionality the iPhone wasn’t lightyears ahead. It was the execution and the perfection of the experience that made it such a watershed product.</p><p><br></p><p>The price was Apple hubris and the lack of enterprise features was due to the iPhone being designed as a fully consumer-oriented product.</p>

  • mmcpher

    Premium Member
    25 June, 2019 - 11:20 am

    <p>Great article Paul. Not one I particularly agree with, but there's no mistaking your point of view. I don't agree that Gates' ruthless and remorseless focus on sharp business practices is accurately described as "small-minded". He was not a master showman or salesman. He had no identifiable artistic aesthetic. He had will, vision and nerve. His genius was in seeing the broader dynamics of the bigger picture. He may not have been a world-class design apple-polisher, but he was instrumental in standardizing personal computing, in the home and in business and his company became the way forward for so many other companies. The Father of Modern Productivity. He was not always a kindly father. </p><p><br></p><p>I think its a testament to Gates' influence and importance that you can still make a living making fun of the things he made, the way he looks and sounds, the imperfections of his still-evolving products. If Microsoft products are not finished, they do get better. All the time, over time. Microsoft has not now, and has never been, in the business of making shiny, fussy objects de' arte, and then freezing them in insufferable amber. If the iPhone changed everything, it stole, iterated and ultimately destroyed along the way. Palm and Research in Motion were already doing the things that Apple "changed". </p><p><br></p><p>I do think of Windows Phone and/or Windows Mobile as a "mistake". Microsoft did try. They were too slow and had lost, in part through Antitrust, the awesome leverage there ubiquity created, to impose on developers and would-be "partners", and could not just put over and put in place a mobile platform in the way they had with Internet Explorer. The shame of it was and is that the underlying concept of a truly integrated, cross-platform, mobile/desktop/workstation system remains worthy and compelling. They needed to learn a new way to succeed and were too slow and failed at it. So Microsoft failed, but not every failure is a mistake. Sometimes it makes sense to try even if a favorable outcome is uncertain, even improbable. I don't think of Microsoft's mobile failure as one of those teaching moments; it was an unmitigated disaster that almost put the entire enterprise at risk (though that was down the road rather than imminent). I do credit Gates in the way he transitioned to his current role and the way he managed succession at Microsoft. I have not always liked the ways that Satya Nadella has remade Microsoft on the fly, but can see clearer every day the need for its being done. When Nadella took over, he had Gates' confidence and public support. Say what you will about Gates, but for someone who succeeded through imposition of his will, sometimes through questionable practices, he was and remains oddly able to subjugate his personal ego to the needs of the company he created. </p>

    • digiguy

      Premium Member
      25 June, 2019 - 12:01 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#437410">In reply to mmcpher:</a></em></blockquote><p>"His genius was in seeing the broader dynamics of the bigger picture" I tend to disagree. If you watch the joint interviews with Steve Jobs you can see that Jobs has a much better vision of what actually happened in the future, contrary to Gates…</p>

  • sevenacids

    25 June, 2019 - 11:32 am

    <p>I don't share the view that Microsoft never innovated. They surely took ideas from others, but there are a few examples when they delivered something more innovative than "the real thing" in the end. The Common Language Runtime (.NET) is just one example. Basically, they took a lot from Java, but their implementation – like, just-in-time compilation to native code instead of an interpreter, a really good concept of a generic type system, the C# language – is way better and was unprecedented at the time of the initial release, and not half-baked in any way. It's too bad that open source wasn't a thing back then.</p>

  • mattbg

    Premium Member
    25 June, 2019 - 12:06 pm

    <p>I agree with the gist about Gates and innovation and especially about their ingrained inability to finish and polish things. But, I'd say that building and maintaining the standardization that let such varied hardware run and integrate with the same common Windows operating system was an innovation. It's one of the lasting differences between Mac and Windows-based PCs and primarily because of Microsoft's position as a software company first as opposed to being primarily driven by hardware (as main competitors IBM and Apple are/were).</p>

    • hrlngrv

      Premium Member
      25 June, 2019 - 1:33 pm

      <p><a href="; target="_blank"><em>In reply to mattbg:</em></a></p><p>Windows had ISA/EISA to work with, and OEMs were at least as involved in those standards as MSFT. It was the non-IBM PC industry choosing to adopt common standards in response to IBM's stated goals for its Microchannel architecture and OS/2 which led to the victory of the clones and MSFT and Windows.</p>

  • Divodd

    Premium Member
    25 June, 2019 - 12:13 pm

    <p>At least Gates was never on the board of the company he stole from. How Eric Schmidt got away with that one befuddles me to this day</p>

  • glenn8878

    25 June, 2019 - 12:48 pm

    <p>Microsoft doesn't deserve to own any market just because it's has a platform. What it did with home entertainment, music, and tablets was just as painful. I'm glad it remained in Enterprise and moved on to the Cloud as that was it's strengths. A new IBM reborn. It almost screwed gaming. Gaming won't ever be profitable, but it's hanging on and Microsoft can afford to keep it up.</p>

  • Ron McMahon

    25 June, 2019 - 1:02 pm

    <p>Something tells me that Paul's not getting a Christmas card from the Gates this year…</p><p><br></p><p>Great article, well reasoned and perfectly presented. </p><p><br></p><p>It's clear that the 'just ship it' mentality is alive and well in Microsoft, as both the Office and Windows teams have only expanded their embrace of shipping incomplete and broken software with the automated forcing of updates on us.</p>

    • mattbg

      Premium Member
      25 June, 2019 - 4:57 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#437455">In reply to Ron McMahon:</a></em></blockquote><p>“Just ship it” is even more prevalent now than it was in the past , with Agile and the MVP being popular, but the difference is that many companies then rapidly iterate to improve the product in short successive release cycles. That’s where MS often falls short.</p>

  • Boris Zakharin

    25 June, 2019 - 1:21 pm

    <p>I don't buy this. Android was exactly what the old Microsoft would have done. It was enough like the Apple product, though not as polished, only cheap and open to hardware developers. Part of the reason the iPhone was so successful was Apple's reputation. </p><p><br></p><p>What Microsoft tried to do with Windows Phone was copy Apple's strategy, fulfilling a need nobody knew they had. But they couldn't do it, partially because it was too similar to what the iPhone was already doing, and partially because they didn't have the "cool" factor to pull it off.</p><p><br></p><p>Had Microsoft done its "embrace and extend" of the iPhone a la Android, would it have worked? Maybe. Google had its own cool factor going back then, much diluted these days. Microsoft had the great developer relationships going for it, though. Still, Bill Gates may be right.</p>

  • hrlngrv

    Premium Member
    25 June, 2019 - 1:30 pm

    <p>Blackberry was the first BIG smartphone in the enterprise. MSFT was playing catch-up to Blackberry in the early 2000s. My memory may be faulty, but I recall Blackberries were at least an order of magnitude more common than Windows phones in the mid 2000s.</p><p>In fairness, Excel introduced a lot of new concepts in spreadsheets. It's original XLM macro language was way beyond what other spreadsheets provided in the late 1980s. Also, MS Flight Simulator was innovative. OTOH, once MSFT introduced long filenames with Windows 95, it had to learn for itself everything Unix and descendants had to learn about coping with spaces and other awkward characters in filenames; IOW, MSFT never seems to learn from others' experience, it has to keep burning its own fingers.</p>

  • mikefarinha

    25 June, 2019 - 2:21 pm

    <p>I can buy the argument that Microsoft lacked long term strategic vision for certain periods of time but I have a hard time buying the argument that Microsoft perpetually lacked innovation. </p>

  • mrdrwest

    25 June, 2019 - 3:18 pm

    <p>Ugliness is a form of genius.</p>

  • igor engelen

    25 June, 2019 - 3:50 pm

    <p>"There was just a “ship it” mentality, not a “get it right” mentality."</p><p>That's my biggest annoyance with Microsoft.</p>

  • OldITPro2000

    Premium Member
    25 June, 2019 - 4:05 pm

    <p>Ah, embrace, extend, extinguish. :)</p><p><br></p><p>Regarding the old "3 tries to get it right" and "not finishing the job" this is still true even today. Witness all of the functionality of Control Panel STILL not moved into the Settings app. It's been this way since Windows 8.</p><p><br></p><p>Great analysis as always, Paul.</p>

  • harrymyhre

    Premium Member
    25 June, 2019 - 4:12 pm

    <p> Microsoft had this motto “a computer on every desktop”, and they achieved that, but then there was never a plan for what happens after the desktop.</p><p><br></p><p>Yes they did windows mobile and windows phone but I don’t think they had fire in the belly towards mobile. </p>

  • innitrichie

    25 June, 2019 - 5:06 pm

    <p>I'm still using Windows Phone and a Nokia 950 XL with its best-in-class camera technology.</p><p>I have no interest in Android or iOS.</p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">There's room for more than one non-Apple operating system in my world.</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">I'm Windows Phone until I die.</span></p>

    • PeterC

      25 June, 2019 - 6:13 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#437544">In reply to innitrichie:</a></em></blockquote><p>&gt;&gt; I'm Windows Phone until I die.</p><p><br></p><p>may I ask how old are you? This will help me frame the level of your optimism ?</p>

    • jgraebner

      Premium Member
      26 June, 2019 - 5:31 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#437544">In reply to innitrichie:</a></em></blockquote><p>I'm not really sure what your point is in sharing this. I would imagine there are probably a small handful of people that still watch movies on RCA SelectaVision discs or do their computing tasks on a Coleco Adam. There probably are even a few people that still drive Edsels. That doesn't mean that any of those products ever really mattered beyond their roles as cautionary case studies.</p>

      • bill_russell

        02 July, 2019 - 2:13 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#437889">In reply to jgraebner:</a></em></blockquote><p>my father in law won't use computers and someone offered him a typewriter from the attic (he does use a flip cell phone at least) which he got excited about. I said I think the ribbon is dried out and not sure if you can even buy them.</p>

  • Pierre Masse

    25 June, 2019 - 11:48 pm

    <p>Excellent piece. I would put this one in the Thurrott's Hall of Fame.</p>

  • brettscoast

    Premium Member
    26 June, 2019 - 1:07 am

    <p>Excellent write up Paul. Summing up very succinctly where Gates went so wrong. Someone will no doubt write a book about the lost decade for Microsoft. </p>

  • jblank46

    26 June, 2019 - 8:20 am

    <p>Agreed on most, if not all points. I think it’s easier for Apple to be perfectionist with their software ambitions because they control the hardware portfolio whereas Microsoft had to deal with many hardware partners who also were not innovating.</p><p><br></p><p>Today’s pc hardware is far more refined than ever, yet windows still needs refinement and perhaps that is why we’re on this two release cycles per year rollercoaster from hell. We’re pleading for only one release per year yet Windows has so much to fix, so much to polish and get right left still.</p>

  • ndwilder

    26 June, 2019 - 2:42 pm

    <p>I don't agree that Apple get it right when shipped, as they've had numerous launch issues. They also often bungle the latest versions of iOS in some way. AND they often wait far too many years to update the models they sell with any kind of current technology. What they have managed is a clever ecosystem where all the devices owned all talk and work together quite well…which is another big failure of MS. I loved my Windows Phone…I wish they would not have dropped that ball. They owned the smartphone market, and just watched it get eaten. Today's ship and fix mentality at MS with absolute lack of QA is seriously disconcerting, as it seems to be getting WORSE, not better, under current leadership. </p>

  • txag

    27 June, 2019 - 12:24 am

    <p>The ethical issues go back to the beginning: the (more or less) theft of QDOS for MS-DOS and then the less-than-transparent dealing with IBM while circumventing OS/2. </p>

  • YouWereWarned

    27 June, 2019 - 4:40 am

    <p>I do appeciate all the high-level analysis, but I'll suggest a much simpler reason Windows Phone was not successful: the Home screen (an innovation) was in fact a marketing disaster. Multicolored tiles for no reason, no easy way to select the colors or give the variations useful meaning. By default there were big ones, little ones, and to top it off, they randomly flipped and presented a confusing morass. </p><p><br></p><p>Standing in the Verizon store, a novice would-be phone purchaser saw "boring" Android and iPhone displays, and the Microsoft kaleidoscope. Obviously, Microsoft never put the three choices in front of non-employees before deciding theirs was "better". And the salesman was equally confused–the kiss of death.</p><p><br></p><p>The result was predictable–simplicity won. A device for the masses HAS to be dumbed-down.</p>

    • bill_russell

      02 July, 2019 - 2:09 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#438009">In reply to YouWereWarned:</a></em></blockquote><p>That's what I always thought was a big part of it. To some, the tiles are cool but I would guess tending toward "nerdy people" who enjoy being immersed in complexity or information overload. Those who are right at home in a lab with wires strung all over the place and blinking lights, and sensor displays, formulas on a whiteboard, etc – the majority consumer is scared off by that.</p><p><br></p><p>Also, what about the fact that MS wouldn't allow any carrier customizations (I think). Carriers would rather push android then.</p>

  • oscar1

    28 June, 2019 - 7:47 am

    <p>About Microsoft, BIll Gates and his bussiness practice and lack of innovation: I think that late Steve Jobs nailed it pretty good in Walter Isaacson´s official bio<span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">: "Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he's more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology. He just shamelessly ripped off other people's ideas." </span></p><p><br></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">And of course, we have the famous quote about Microsoft and taste from Steve Jobs as shown in the excellent 1996 documentary T</span>riumph of the nerds:<span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);"> "The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste. And I don't mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don't think of original ideas, and they don't bring much culture into their products.".</span></p>

  • jack77711

    20 October, 2019 - 12:46 pm

    <p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">He has great stuff to mesmerize the world and already on the line also supporting the poor community. These are some remarkable job being done I also believe he must embark on </span><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">transport industry</span><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">. He needs to speed up all his charity works to silence his critics.</span>He has great stuff to mesmerize the world and already on the line also supporting the poor community. These are some remarkable job being done I also believe he must embark on <a href="; target="_blank" style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">transport industry</a>. He needs to speed up all his charity works to silence his critics.</p>

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