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Steve Ballmer laments Microsoft’s failure on the mobile front

Steve Ballmer has admitted that his biggest regret, and Microsoft’s biggest mistake in recent times, is the failure to capitalise on the mobile market.

Ballmer, of course, was Microsoft CEO for the last 14 years, although he recently retired at the beginning of last month to make way for Satya Nadella (who some argue is the polar opposite of the fiery Ballmer).

Ballmer made his admission when speaking to Oxford university students. The Register notes that he said that Microsoft “would have a stronger position in the phone market today if I could redo, for example, the last ten years.”

He continued: “The thing I regret is that we didn't put the hardware and software together soon enough. It was almost magical the way the PC came about with an operating system from us and hardware from IBM. There was a little bit of magic, too, for Android and Samsung coming together. But if you really want to bring a vision to market, it is helpful to be able to conceive and deliver the hardware and software.”

Of course, Android is now the dominant force in the smartphone world, and Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS is still struggling to make any real impact – despite big deals and moves with Nokia.

He stressed, though, that the company was “Micro-soft” with a focus on software – but that had changed, of course, with the move into consoles, hardware like the Surface tablet, and mobiles. He observed: “Essentially we have a profile that will wind up being far more mixed in the future.”

Is that a hint that there’s more to come, perhaps on the hardware front like wearables – which is, after all, the next big thing (or one of them)? Given that Microsoft has become a “fast follower” rather than innovator, as we’ve discussed before – well, that’s the avenue everyone else (Apple, Google, Samsung and so forth) is headed down currently.

Whatever happens, Microsoft better learn from its past, and not do too much watching and following, because after all, that’s why Windows Phone has ended up where it is.