Your Greatest Mistake

Bill Gates recently shared what he believed to be one of his “greatest mistakes” – missing the Android opportunity:

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.

That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win. 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.

via Bill Gates

You can hear him share this around minute 11:

The one and only.

A few things:

  1. I doubt this is his greatest mistake during his time as chief; it might be one of the more obvious business-centric miscalculations, but, I bet the more impactful mistakes are either non-obvious or perhaps time has yet to fully suss them out. I feel as if the biggest mistakes in my life have always been personal and that had outsized professional impact as well.
  2. The winner-take-all strategy is how businesses historically survived (and won) their industries and verticals (and this still happens today). But, I don’t think this model (and way of thinking) is going to survive the coming waves of decentralization, both technologically and philosophically.

In fact, I think one of the “biggest” mistakes that many companies are making, as we speak, is ignoring blockchain, decentralized systems / protocols, and the software layers that are being built in, around, and on-top-of cryptocurrency-enabled systems.

The companies that pay attention have a shot at surviving the next serious round of innovation. The rest will most likely die, which is what they need to do anyway.

When someone shares their “greatest mistake” it’s an opportunity to act, not just listen curiously.