What you need to know

  • Bill Gates admits Microsoft losing to Android was his "greatest mistake ever."
  • Gates said there's only room for one non-Apple OS.
  • Gates believes Microsoft would be "the leading company" if it was successful in mobile.

Bill Gates is one of the most successful businessmen in the world—but that doesn't mean he's never made a mistake.

In an interview with Village Global, Gates revealed his "greatest mistake ever" was failing to beat Android.

In the software world, particularly for platforms, these are winner-take-all markets. 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 non-Apple phone platform.

Gates acknowledged that once Android got the upper hand, there was no room for Windows Phone to succeed.

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 and what's that worth? $400 billion that would be transferred from company G to company M.

When the mobile race first started heating up, Microsoft fatally dismissed the iPhone. In fact, Steve Balmer famously laughed away Apple's device because it didn't come equipped with a physical keyboard.

Eventually, Microsoft was forced to scrap Windows Mobile in favor of Windows Phones. But the platform never caught on with mainstream consumers, as iOS and Android ran away with the market.

If Microsoft would've managed to find its footing in the mobile market, Gates believes the company would be "the leading company," rather than "a leading company."

Hindsight is 20/20, but it's always interesting to think what could have been.