Bill Gates criticises Microsoft’s lack of innovation and smartphone strategy on national TV

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has publicly criticised the lack of innovation at the computer giant and its failure to take a leadership position in the smartphone market in a high-profile US television interview.

In an interview with CBS This Morning, Gates admits that while the company had foreseen the importance of smartphones, it had not capitalised on its first-mover advantage.

“We didn’t miss cell phones, but the way that we went about it didn’t allow us to get the leadership. So it’s clearly a mistake,” Gates says.

When Gates was asked for his thoughts on current chief executive Steve Ballmer, he gave the current Microsoft chief credit for many of the innovations the company has introduced over the past year.

“Well, [Ballmer] and I are two of the most self-critical people you can imagine. And here 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 are seeing as a better search product, Xbox,” Gates says.

However, despite the praise for Ballmer, Gates admits he is not satisfied with the pace of innovation at the tech giant.

“But is – is it enough? No, [Ballmer] and I are not satisfied that in terms of, you know, breakthrough things, that we’re doing everything possible,” he says.

The comments by Gates have been taken up by prominent critics of current Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop, including the outspoken former Nokia executive Tomi Ahonen, who used the comments to criticise Elop’s decision to use Windows Phone 8 on the company’s Lumia smartphones.

“Bill Gates tells the world now, in February 2013, that the Windows Phone strategy for Microsoft has ‘clearly’ failed and cannot succeed, ever,” Ahonen says.

Ahonen links the lack of market leadership for Windows Phone 8 to the company’s decision to purchase and integrate Skype, which has been met with apprehension from phone carriers.

“Ever since Microsoft bought Skype in a year and a half ago, that the strategy was doomed. It is no secret!” Ahonen says.

“Microsoft’s own Chairman admits, that while his appointed replacement as new Microsoft chief executive, Steve Ballmer, has done many things good with Microsoft like Bing and Xbox and on the desktop, Windows 8, yet the smartphone strategy on Windows Phone was ‘clearly’ a mistake and that it cannot ever succeed in achieving leadership. It is fundamentally flawed.”

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