Outgoing Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has admitted that he regrets missing the mobile explosion in the early 2000s, which has left the company playing catch-up to Apple and Google.
Speaking at what will be his final investors' conference on Thursday Ballmer said Microsoft was too focused on Windows at a time when mobile was the bigger trend.
“If there's one thing I guess you would say I regret, I regret that there was a period in the early 2000s when we were so focused on what we had to do around Windows, that we weren't able to redeploy talent to the new device form factor called the phone,” he said at the meeting.
“That would probably [be] the thing I would tell you I regret the most, because the time we missed was about the time we were working away on what became Vista, and I wish we'd had our resources slightly differently deployed.”
Microsoft is currently lagging far behind rivals such as Apple and Samsung, while numerous other phone manufacturers are also using Google's Android platform to make huge gains in the mobile space. By contrast, Microsoft's Windows Phone has been left far behind, and is only now starting to make any noticeable gains.
The firm has also splashed out $5.4bn for Nokia's mobile phone unit. As the Finnish company was the only hardware manufacturer to give any backing to the Windows Phone platform, Microsoft could not risk losing this support.
Ballmer also left investors with a rallying cry for the company, urging them to support its long-term vision.
“I'm a believer in Microsoft. I'm a believer in the company, I'm a believer in what we can do. I don't normally give you the sales pitch. It's been my tradition to try to highlight risk factors and blahty-blahty-blee. Not today. You all own Microsoft stock. Cheer for it, for God's sake. We all want it to go the same direction: up,” he said.
Ballmer is set to leave the company within the next year, and a number of high-profile replacements have been lined up as his potential successor, with former Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop now lined up as favourite as he returns to Microsoft as part of the Nokia buyout.
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