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back to article Bill Gates: Windows Phone strategy was 'a mistake'

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates may be devoting more time to running his philanthropic foundation than to day-to-day operations in Redmond these days, but that doesn't mean he's satisfied with how things are going at the company he founded, particularly where mobility is concerned. In an interview with CBS This Morning's Charlie …

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Swore that last sentance said

"in terms of breaking things, that we're doing everything possible."

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'Bing, people have seen is a better search product', than what? not searching???

Microsoft must have quietly got ahead of Google Glasses 'cos Gates seems to be viewing the world in a very strange way!

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I read that as "better than it was"...

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Anonymous Coward

bahhhahha - Really bill?

""There were a lot of amazing things that Steve's leadership got done with the company in the last year. Windows 8 is key to the future ... the Surface computer ... Bing, people have seen is a better search product ... the Xbox ..."

All of those are dismal failures. What planet is Bill now living on? One where everyone uses Bing to search for stuff, and a 60% Xbox failure rate is perfectly normal?

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Silver badge

GOD Particulars. AI Peculiarities for Export and Exploration .....

... of the Massive Singularity Controlling SMARTR Enigmatic Man and Colossal Virtual Machines.

Message to Bill Gates and all Wannabe OS Control Freaks

It is not hardware or software which delivers to a platform an unassailable lead with the really artificial power that is control in the marketplace, it is attractive and exclusively aligned meta data and intelligent future information which all would clamour to hear and be privy and party to.

To say any more on the matter, methinks, would be unnecessarily superfluous and prone to be misleading and even more confusing.

So Billy, cutting directly to the chase, who in the company owns the Keys to Future Master Scripts with AddICTive Content …… Sticky Sweet Nectar for Global Operating Devices.

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FAIL

Sorry, Billy, You blew it with Windows CE ....

Sorry, Billy Gates, you blew it with mobile OS's starting with Windows CE. And weren't you in charge back then? If you want to know why Windows doesn't rule the smartphone, look in the mirror. And you also didn't kill Spam "in two years" like you predicted in 2004.

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Re: Sorry, Billy, You blew it with Windows CE ....

Hmm, I wouldn't see it that way. Of course Windows CE wasn't good. It lacked essential features, crashed a lot and was limited in strange ways, but at least you could get your own software onto it easily without having to mess around with keys. It was a serious competitor to Java ME. It was, in a nutshell, an approximation to the win32 API.

Now imagine Microsoft would have just ported the Windows NT kernel to ARM (as they already did with PPC, MIPS, Alpha, etc) and added an x86 emulator (as they already did on Alpha) and they had an interesting product. You'd have to change the GUI guidelines of course, but other than that, porting to it would be easy and sometimes you wouldn't even have to do any porting. Plus you'd immediately be able to run all your "non-visual" software. Need some special VPN software? Just run it, it might be slow but it'll work.

What they have now is a deliberately incompatible version of Windows. It has all the disadvantages of the desktop version, but no advantages. Microsoft seems to have misunderstood that their lifeline, particularly in the business sector, is their compatibility with their previous products.

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Re: Sorry, Billy, You blew it with Windows CE ....

For it's time Windows CE was a good idea and a reasonably solid OS. Let's not forget that before the iPhone came along Win CE based smartphones essentially owned the vast chunk of the market. It was really only Apple coming along and showing how a fully thought through touch interface should be done that changed things.

Microsoft made a definite mistake back then of thinking that a "familiar" interface was more important than something optimised around touch (and most people were agreeing with them). Whether they are right to try to avoid making the same mistake with the PC OS will probably only be something that time can tell.

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Boffin

Re: Sorry, Billy, You blew it with Windows CE ....

I agree with much you say = CE was close enough to the Win32 API to help development for Windows developers like me back in the day, but MS moved away from classic Win32 API into .NET which didn’t help.

I used to do development with Windows CE 1.0 and 2.0, then got buried in a world of slightly incompatible versions like Pocket PC/Handheld PC versions across a range of different processors, form factors and manufactures. I remember one client ordering Phillips Pocket PC's for a vertical market application, (after we had tested our code on it and certified the device), then Philips withdrawing entirely from the CE device market. Switching to other handhelds (Sony or Toshiba from what I recall) through up new bugs in the firmware and OS layers which meant starting again with certification testing.

So Windows CE always had issues, but found a decent niche as a relatively light-weight OS that was relatively easy to develop simple graphical applications for and could run on a range of specialised devices.

Problem I always saw was the name. Windows CE was never ‘Windows’ that could run full Windows apps, but they still pushed many devices to look like Windows complete with start menu and ‘Pocket Office’ that was near useless. Windows Phone 8 and Windows RT continues this to a lesser extent. As you say, all the disadvantages of the desktop version without the advantages of running Windows apps unchanged. Software repositories for CE devices used to have something like a simple Chess game available in lots of different versions – consumer had to know the exact version of CE and CPU to buy the right software. Apple simplified this – I remember getting an iPod Touch and finding a big range of cheap apps that mostly just worked – compared with Windows Mobile app stores at the time, it was a revelation.

I don’t think MS could have done much else though. NT kernel was too big for low powered devices back in the day and did not support all the odd ball processor variations that CE did. x86 emulators were also never going to run MS Office apps on a low power ARM or similar devices given the hardware available until a few years ago. It is only recently with WP8/W8RT that MS have had multi-core ARM variants and devices with enough memory and CPU to run a NT core and Office apps – even then, the RT devices are packing more memory than iPads or Android tablets from a few years ago.

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FAIL

Too late by a long shot

Could it be that customers just don't want to be locked in to a Microsoft app shop? Might that be the reason that Windows RT also fails to win our hearts?

Apple could get away with it because at the beginning they were seen as the good guy and later there were so many apps available that there still was the feeling to have some choice (albeit limited to Apples whims). And of course there was the "coolness factor" of buying Apple.

For Microsoft there is no such bonus. Their products were successful because they were relatively easy and open to use. WinCE might have been a pain in many aspects, but at least you could get a relatively decent choice of 3rd party software. The openness is now gradually being removed. First by more and more ridiculous activation schemes and now, finally, with a closed app shop that seems to be nothing else than a blatant try to monopolize the market.

It might have even worked had Apple not shown to dog and the world what consequences such a lock-in has. Who would buy in such a scheme now?

What is scary is that Microsoft still might have the power to enforce their lock-in on the desktop. They just need to remove the classic desktop and only allow Metro apps - just like on RT.

As for phones - no way their strategy will work. It's too late for that.

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I've read Gates is doing good stuff with the money he's earned. Meanwhile Microsoft is becoming a dinosaur.

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FAIL

regarding surface

Was in a computer store the other day trying out the new surface notebook slash tablet pc.

After a few minutes I typed out my feelings:

"I think I like Android better. "

I had to re-type it several times as the keyboard inexplicably missed several key strokes...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: regarding surface

Who'd of thought that the sort of person who thinks it's amusing to leave messages about how the competition is better on shop floor computers wouldn't be able to type very accurately?

I stopped doing this sort of thing when I was about 15.

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Devil

Bill Gates: Windows was 'a mistake'

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Anonymous Coward

A vastly profitable mistake, which helped to get a computer on every desk and break the strangle hold of big iron unix on the datacentre.

I'm guessing you don't remember a time before Windows, let alone a time before Linux.

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DOS

Loved that (esp DR-DOS) much better than windows, but yes, I was a kid when ICL still made massive computers and there was nothing more than a nascom-1 for the home

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MJI
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Re: DOS

And of course Netware

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Headmaster

@AC 09:!8 GMT

Big iron Unix in the datacentre - sorry sonny, it was VM/CMS, OS/370, TOPS-10, RSTS-E, VMS, RSX-11XM, etc, etc.

Not many big data centres ran Unix. It was mainly reserved for Universities and research centres.

Phil.

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As someone who remembers the time before MS-DOS and of course before Windows and Linux, I can tell you have some stuff confused.

There was never "big iron unix". Unix, at best was on mini computers and microcomputers at that time. The "big iron" was universaly running IBM's OS.

It was IBM who got scared by "those garage sales" of Apple and decided to get hold of that market, by introducing the IBM PC. IBM wanted to play it safe, and the IBM PC had as primary goal bein an smart terminal for the "big iron" IBM computers. In order to do it, because they had no clue, they chose two companies, who were very envious, because their competitors fared better: Microsoft and Intel. The rest is history. But if you have something to complain about either Microsoft or Intel -- blame IBM: they were their creators.

The IBM PC computers became popular not because of IBM, but because a lotof spec leaked and the (apparently) poor design was cloned by a number of non-name "will do anything for money" manufacturers.

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Re: DOS

Nascom.... those were the days :)

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Unhappy

Did he say Bing?

He did say Bing, didn't he?

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Trollface

Re: Did he say Bing?

What is Bing? I'll have to google that.

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Re: A monopoly?????

Don't talk out of your backside please. When DOS was created (all be it a ripoff/port of others work) it wasn't a monopoly, in truth it was more the start of something new. When windows came along it certainly had competition - Apple among them. Unix is certainly not newer and the whole industry was wide open for many years.

Windows - for better or worse - was better sold, marketed and had office - which itself had much competition at least in the early days (wordstar, lotus 123 etc etc etc) . Over the years the users decided which to buy. Others were able to come into the system. The best marketing coup was making the requirements simple for manufacturers, frequent upgrades and cheap deals for manufacturers to bundle ms products preinstallled and working on a machine. The fact it was preinstalled and working, and that there were frequent new, arguably better, versions to encourage upgrades of machines appealed to the manufacturer and the consumer.

Certainly I have tried linux - I installed it on a perfectly good working system with a perfectly good graphics screen to be told that the lcd wasn't capable of graphics so all I could have was a text display. And frankly that was the first problem, followed by fighting with a syntax for commands which is beyond comprehension, tools which are frankly unusable and a support infrastructure that prefers to either laugh or give you a massive list of things you can try instead of providing a neat and concise description of a single correct thing that will work.

Windows is a long way from perfect, but other available solutions are further from perfect, it wasn't a monopoly, people just voted with their wallets for something that worked better than anything else.

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Re: A monopoly?????

An obvious monopoly that still exists today, how many different OSes can you order with your new laptop ?

Obviously nobody had a monopoly on DOS, he is talking about 95-2005 when Microsoft was repeatedly fined and almost broken up due to monopoly abuse - WHICH WAS PROVEN IN COURT.

Nice try with the FUD though.....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A monopoly?????

Windows

Linux

MacOS

Have all all arrived on new laptops at my house in the last couple of years.

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Re: A monopoly?????

You can go and buy an apple and even some with linux preinstalled. Most companies still sell PC's with windows preinstalled - this is for two reasons. First the deal with Microsoft is sufficiently sweet (or breaking it too sour), second it is what the public want.

The second reason being the most important. If it were not for the second then it would not matter a damn how sweet (or sour) the MS deal was.

Apple is too expensive for most people. Linux too much hassle - although I assume the ones preinstalled work out of the box. Many larger businesses put complete new images on laptops - they don't care whether its got linux, windows, or Fredfllintstone OS installed, they wipe it anyway

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WTF?

Re: A great mind at work..... NOT!

>However, the Windows 7 strategy had the additional disadvantage that it's UI was rejected by the market in the first place.

Come again?

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Re: A monopoly?????

The new wave of Ultrabooks often runs spendier than their Apple Air counterparts. The only Windows laptops that are THAT much cheaper than baseline Macbok Pros are cheap shoddy plastic things loaded down with crapware that nobody with any sense wants anyway. Department store throwaways, junk laptops for students. Crap hinges, cheap keyboards, watery displays, and and my all time favorite. Sleeve bearing fans that crap out in 14 months, assuming the keyboard lasts that long.

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It's much worse than that...

On no, it's much worse than that:

Microsoft didn't just miss the boat on the smartphone, they destroyed a cast-iron position of having an established open source developer base built around the only mobile platform that truly integrated with the enterprise stack. Why? Because in chasing the consumer space Microsoft chose to fight on the terms laid out by its competitors and ignored their existing customer base.

Given that I have been banging the table at Redmond and elsewhere, I have very little sympathy. We love what Microsoft used to do in the enterprise space but our strategy now is to disengage until there's a change at the top.

Once there's a credible Android desktop you will be able to count Microsoft's share price in cents...

David Gale

SITFO.org

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Megaphone

An open letter to Mr. Gates

If you want to do something useful then please start making sythethtic Rhino horn and flood the market with it.

Seriosuly, it cannot be too difficult to do and if no one does it there will soon be no Rhinos left.

Thank you.

To Reg readers: Sorry for going off topic but I do not have a platform to spread this message.

If you are a scientist then please forward this to someone who can make it happen.

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Stop

Re: An open letter to Mr. Gates

Given as rhino horn is used for the "handles of curved daggers called jambiya” I'd suggest maybe something in plastic would be a good substitute. As for medicine: "is used to treat fever, rheumatism, gout, and other disorders. According to the 16th century Chinese pharmacist Li Shi Chen, the horn could also cure snakebites, hallucinations, typhoid, headaches, carbuncles, vomiting, food poisoning, and “devil possession." I'd suggest Aspirin, liver salts and maybe some kind of anti-psychotic maybe Levomepromazine.

The problem with Rhino horn is not lack of substitutes but a cultural issue.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Gates has just OSBORNED the Win 8 phone

Give it a rest, there's a good chap.

Also, your caps lock seems broken, don't you usually end your posts with an EPIC FAIL?

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Bronze badge

Re: Gates has just OSBORNED the Win 8 phone

Lets be fair, Elop took a massive platform - a collosal aircraft carrier with tons of advantages over android and iphone then burnt, bombed, torpedoed and finally chopped it up when it carried on refusing to die and jumped instead into a rubber dingy without oars.

The problem is NOT Elop, it is not even Microsoft, the problem is the board and shareholders in what was the worlds biggest and arguably the best mobile phone company who didn't sack the guy the moment he sent the burning platform email.

The guy isn't fit to wipe the backside of the tens of thousands of engineers he has screwed over.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Gates has just OSBORNED the Win 8 phone

@ AC 10:25

There go his dreams of becoming a Daily Mail writer.

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: Gates has just OSBORNED the Win 8 phone

@AC - true, I since soldered the caps lock back to the keyboard.

It's a Microsoft keyboard, isn't it Eadon? C'mon...admin it...and you loved it so much you fixed it instead of replacing it...

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Re: Gates has just OSBORNED the Win 8 phone

>The guy isn't fit to wipe the backside of the tens of thousands of engineers he has screwed over.

Weren't Nokia's assorted tribes of software engineers (Symbian and various Linux flavours) inside doing a fairly good job battling each other?

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Facepalm

Re: Gates has just OSBORNED the Win 8 phone

@Eadon: Comprehension fail again. Please try again and maybe one day you'll actually learn something.

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Re: Gates has just OSBORNED the Win 8 phone

To fix an old IBM keyboard, I understand. It is worth it. But fixing an Microsoft keyboard makes no sense. They are so cheap... although, admittely newer models are junk -- just as their recent software.

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MJI
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Re: MS Keyboards

They used to be really good keyboards as well, until a stupid teenager dropped their drink on it and did not unplug it immediately.

I use an ancient Mitsumi at work as all the new KBs feel horrible.

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Nokia

Surely by now some shareholders in Nokia must have got the message?

The idiot Elop they bought in to run the company ditched Symbian when it had a 50% market share as a 'burning platform', and replaced it with the burnt out and sunk wreck called Microsoft.... He has made the biggest blunder in the tech world to date... why the fuck are the shareholders leaving the idiot in place?

He must be fired - with no compensation, pension or even the worthless shares he has caused - along with the board that recommended him. Then the company can start with something that works and has a good track record - either restart Symbian (which would take a lot now that the engineers that made it work have all been fired) or swap to an Android device - although Nokia have also fired almost all their linux experts they are still developing a linux device over in Berlin (behind a facade to cover them for the folk they fired elsewhere in Germany who were also working on linux).

I guess they'll do neither and end up a foot note in history or perhaps revert to making boots.

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Linux

although i'm not a microsoft fan...

which is meant to be read as "I hate their freaking polytics"......

I have to admit I admire Gates. He DID a good job. He gave us Windows 95->XP. Who amongst us hasn't used XP to the day they couldn't install the brand new DX11-only game?

I know I have.

And he seems to be passionate about what he does, and that has got to be admired. And he does it good, which is even better! He shares his incredible fortune helping people!

Gates shows devotion and passion about Microsoft. He gives us his vision,and his ideas. That can be appreciated, and can bring people to Microsoft.

Ballmer shows his by jumping around and screaming like a frightened ape. By telling that everything else sucks, that open-source is like a cancer, etc etc. That doesn't make me feel any better for the company. In fact, it makes me lose all respect for it.

Yes, I too think Bill must either be living in his own fantasy world, which i think is good for him. To see Balmer destroy his life's work would be heart-breaking for him.

I also have an XBox, and I love it.

Now... I'm not a windows fan. not since Win 7. For me, it's Windows XP prettied up, with some extra features, sure... But is that enough to ask for 16 gig minimum in my hard drive??? or 2 gig RAM? No. No way.

They seem to get things done this way, unfortunately. They give you a crappy OS, then the same crappy OS with some of the crap fixed, and you think "wooow, that is WAY better than the one before". That way, you don't even complain that you needed to upgrade your PC to run it

Think about it...

95 ( so-so ), 98 was super.

ME ( was even erased from Microsoft's page ), XP ( über ).

Vista ( need i say anything ? Nothing worked in this ) , 7 ( the savior ).

Windows 8 ( already having all the negative reviews regarding Metro ), .....

I've been a linux user for some years now, and I tell you... Although i like to imagine Microsoft losing it's monopoly, I hate it to be because of Balmer. I'd simply like for some friendly and fair competition.

Also, as a thought. A few years ago, a rumour appeared that Bill Gates was going to return to CEO, chairman, whatever, of Microsoft. Basically, he would run the whole thing again.

Microsoft's stocks went sky high. As soon as that was dismissed as a basic rumour, it dropped even lower than before.

I think that says it all about people believing in Ballmer.

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WTF?

Re: although i'm not a microsoft fan...

Who amongst us hasn't used XP to the day they couldn't install the brand new DX11-only game?

Am I alone in finding it unutterably tragic the choice of desktop Operating System may be dictated by something as trivial as a game?

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MJI
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Re: dajames

Depends on what the PC is for.

We had a few customers change from VIsta to XP to run their business software as it was DOS based

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Re: although i'm not a microsoft fan...

If the main use of the PC is for games and they run best on XP then why is it tragic?

By the same reasoning if it's known that any OS upgrade (desktop or mobile device) borks a game or application you use a lot, should you still upgrade and end up with poorly performing or broken apps or should you wait until the apps work properly on the new OS?

Do you think it tragic that the decision of which console/computer to buy is the one that has the games you want to play and runs the games best?

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Devil

The sad truth is when Microsoft don't strategically close a market to potential rivals they don't have a chance !

Windows Phone 7 & 8 is suffering from Sony disease - to much vertical integration, it is missing features to try and push you into other Microsoft purchases like Xbox, they are dying a death in 5 years, Microsoft will be a console maker and very little else.

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