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Bill Gates: Windows Phone strategy was 'a mistake'

'Not satisfied' that Microsoft isn't leading in phones

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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 Rose on Monday, Gates admitted he wasn't pleased with Microsoft's performance in the mobile market, going as far as to characterize the company's smartphone strategy as "a mistake."

"We didn't miss cell phones," Gates said. "But the way that we went about it didn't allow us to get the leadership, so it's clearly a mistake."

Mind you, to say that Microsoft isn't leading with Windows Phone is a bit of an understatement. According to recent research from comScore, Microsoft's share of the smartphone market actually shrunk during the three months ending December 2012, leaving it with a paltry 2.9 per cent.

That was less than half the share commanded by BlackBerry during the same period – a company to which pundits routinely feel compelled to attach such adjectives as "struggling," "embattled," "beleaguered," and so on.

In 2011, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer confidently told a meeting of financial analysts that he had high hopes that Windows Phone would soon become the third most popular smartphone platform. But given the market performance of Windows Phone 8 so far, even that comparatively meager milestone still looks out of reach.

Gates stopped short of pinning Windows Phone's poor sales on Microsoft's CEO, however, arguing that Microsoft has accomplished lots of important things under Ballmer's tenure, even if securing a dominant position in smartphones wasn't one of them.

"He and I are two of the most self-critical people you can imagine," Gates said. "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 ... But is it enough? No. He and I are not satisfied that, in terms of breakthrough things, that we're doing everything possible." ®

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