The fault for today’s failure with Windows Mobile can ultimately be laid at the feet of Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, who failed to nurture their mobile OS when it needed it the most.
At the currently ongoing Recode Conference, ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made it clear he still does not understand how Microsoft lost its software dominance and consumer relevance to Apple and Google.
He underlined the idea that Microsoft should have built out its ability to produce 1st party hardware, saying hardware was an expression of software, and that licensing software was the wrong monetization model for mobile.
His ideas are consistent with his push to purchase Nokia, but fails to recognise the real mistakes Microsoft made and which Google capitalised on with Android, which currently has more than 2 billion active users.
In short, Steve Ballmer is still blinded by Apple envy, and it was in the process of pursuing this closed software/closed hardware dream that Microsoft lost everything in mobile. Mistakes such as rebooting Windows Mobile, being very prescriptive towards OEMs, prohibiting them from customising the software, preventing consumers from side-loading software and making the OS incompatible with older Windows Mobile software all planted the seeds for the failure of Microsoft’s mobile initiative. In short, no-one except Steve Ballmer blames the lack of good hardware for the death of Windows phones.
Google on the other hand opened up their software, gave OEMs free rein to innovate and patch the functional holes in their Android operating system and created an OS which, no matter how flawed, could be adapted to fill every niche.
Sure, Apple has the most money, but it was never in Microsoft’s DNA to be Apple, and pursuing that path only exposed Microsoft’s own weaknesses.
It is rather sad that Ballmer, who is still Microsoft’s largest shareholder, failed to learn from the history in which he was a pivotal actor. Unfortunately, moves like Windows 10 S suggests Microsoft is once again doomed to repeat it.
See the relevant section of the interview from around the 26:40 mark to the 30:00 mark below.