Bill Gates envisions an alternate reality where, instead of Google's Android being the most popular, widely-used smartphone operating system in the world, a version of Windows for smartphones is on top.

Notoriously, that operating system Windows Mobile and, later, Windows Phone was discontinued by Microsoft.

"Oh we were so close!" Gates said at the New York Times DealBook conference on Wednesday in New York City. "If it hadn't been for the anti-trust case," he said, "I was just too distracted. I screwed that up because of the distraction."

Things didn't work out for Microsoft's mobile platform, which Gates blames on the anti-trust lawsuit Microsoft went through in the late '90s. The US government sued Microsoft over its PC operating system, Windows, which consumed Gates at the time. Microsoft settled with the government in 2001.

microsoft lumia 950
microsoft lumia 950
Lisa Eadicicco

"There's no doubt that the anti-trust lawsuit was bad for Microsoft," he said, "and we would've been more focused on creating the phone operating system ... we were just three months too late with the release that Motorola would've used on a phone."

Even though it was too late, Microsoft still created a mobile OS (Windows Mobile), made a slew of smartphones, and even outright bought Nokia's smartphone business in an attempt to buy its way into the smartphone market.

None of that worked.

"Now nobody here has ever heard of Windows Mobile," Gates said on Wednesday. "But oh well! That's a few hundred billion here or there."

Check out the full interview with Gates right here:

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