In a recent interview with Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Bill Gates was asked about the future and whether or not his company will ever release a a proper competitor to the iPhone.
"No, we won't do that. In the so-called smart phone business we will concentrate solely on software with our Windows Mobile program," Gates said.
"We have partnerships with a lot of device manufacturers from Samsung to Motorola and this variety brings us significantly more than if we would make our own mobile phone," he added.
And with one fell swoop, the founder of Microsoft finally told the world that a Zune Phone or some other Microsoft toy won't be coming to fruition. And while I can't say that I know the exact reason why Bill and company doesn't want to compete with the iPhone, I can see about three reasons why he has decided against it.
Reason 1: Windows Mobile
Sure, we all sit here and have fun talking about some of Microsoft's flops, but Windows Mobile has not been one of them. According to the most recent numbers, Microsoft currently controls 6.1 percent of the entire cell phone market and has a solid hold on the smartphone business.
Beyond that, the company has formed a number of strategic partnerships with major manufacturers (as Bill points out) and there is little need to get in on the hardware business.
And for all of its bad (it has quite a bit of that), there are still some redeeming qualities that should not be overlooked. After all, with Windows Mobile 6 looking like it could be a viable solution going forward, the possibilities could be endless for the platform.
That said, I still think Windows Mobile is pales in comparison to some of its competitors.
Reason 2: Google
Let's face it: the future of Microsoft has nothing to do with operating systems or mobile platforms and everything to do with making sure Google doesn't kick its teeth in.
Let's recap, shall we? Microsoft was the world's most powerful company for years and it seemed as though no one could supplant it. But within just a few short years, Google grew at an exponential rate right under Bill's nose and now Microsoft isn't the only bully in town. To make matters worse, those coffers of cash that Ballmer stares at before he goes home every night aren't nearly enough to swallow up Google, and his company is finally forced to compete.
Realizing this, Microsoft did everything it could to increase its advertising services and even bought a no-name company (aQuantive) for far too much money just because Google acquired DoubleClick.
And now, as we await the arrival of Android, Microsoft is once again wishing Google never existed. After all, how much attention does Bill and Ballmer pay to Apple when Google is in the same business?
If you ask me, the main reason Microsoft has lost its way over these past few years is mainly due to Google. The company has focused so much of its energy (and capital) on Google, it has lost sight of its core business and watched its most lucrative products -- Windows and Office -- go down the tubes.
So do you know why Bill doesn't want to get in the hardware business? He wants to deal with Google first.
Reason 3: Uh, it's ugly
Let's be honest with ourselves -- how many good looking Microsoft products have you ever used? One? Two? None.
By and large, Microsoft is a company that excels at making bloated software and flounders when it needs to make something pretty. Zune? Ugly. Any and all Microsoft peripherals? Gross. Xbox 360? Yikes. When will it ever end?
If we've learned nothing from Apple, we've learned that good looks go a long way in this business. And although we may know that, I guess the Microsoft folks didn't get the memo.
Suffice it to say that if Microsoft ever got into the cell phone hardware business, the phone would probably weigh five pounds, be a disgusting chocolate color and run Windows Mobile. Oh, and it'll probably be overpriced too. Sounds like fun, huh?
Honestly, Microsoft made a fine decision by getting away from the cell phone business. After all, when you're worried about Google, you have a relatively popular mobile platform and your design team leaves much to be desired, how much money would you really want to dump into a junker?
Nice work, Bill. Enjoy your retirement.